Last season, the Chargers suited up and played in SoFi Stadium for the first time. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, fans were absent from the world class venue in 2020 and didn't get to experience the Bolts' inaugural season.
But on Sunday, that all changed with the team's first Fan Fest.
"It's awesome," quarterback Justin Herbert said on having the fans at SoFi for the first time. "It's great to be back out here, playing football. To have fun and to have their support means everything to us. As tough as the year was last year, for them to show up and continue to support us, I'm really looking forward to this year."
NFL teams pride themselves on having a dedicated and rambunctious fan base attend games. The noise and the energy the crowd brings offers an advantage to the home team, an advantage the Chargers were without last season.
"It felt good to be out here, having the fans," safety Derwin James Jr. said on Sunday's practice. "We didn't get to have fans last year when we played. It was good to have all the fans out here - they create an atmosphere that we need. I feel like it was much easier out here."
Training camp gave Chargers fans the opportunity to come out and support their team for the first time since 2019. Chargers fans have been bringing the energy to Jack Hammett Sports Complex, but they cranked it up a notch today.
"The atmosphere jumped out to me right away," head coach Brandon Staley said on his impressions of today's practice at SoFi. "There are a lot of our fans here that were waiting to see us. When we got here, there was just a buzz around here with the concert, then you get in here for pregame and there's people here waiting for you. I felt like that made it feel a lot different for our guys. That level of focus, that level of energy, kind of got our guys going right away. I'm so glad we did this because this is so much different than a training camp practice. It was so different than last year. That adjustment is real. I'm so glad that our operation kind of got going here. I think that you saw the guys perform well today in front of our fans."
This burst of energy will benefit the Bolts in a few days when they play their first preseason game against the Los Angeles Rams on August 14.
"Our plan is the players that we need to evaluate on our team are going to play in that game," Staley said. "The players that we really need to evaluate. Some of our starters are going to play in that game because we need to evaluate them. Right now, there could be a couple of positions that are co-starters, where we kind of feel like we have two guys. You have to let that competition sort itself out. That's how we're looking at the preseason. We want to make sure that we evaluate the guys against other people who we need to evaluate. Then, for the other guys, that's going to be on a case-by-case basis."
For the 10th practice of Training Camp the Chargers shifted venues to SoFi Stadium for a Fan Fest scrimmage.
Odds & Ends
Both linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. and center Corey Linsley left practice early with ankle and foot injuries respectively. However after the practice ended, Staley discussed how the team was exercising caution with both players. "[We kept] him out as a precaution," Staley said of Murray Jr. "I think that if it's a real all game, certainly, that's a much different story. Just being careful with him. [As for Linsley,] I think that if it's a ball game and we're going live, game one, it'll be different. Being cautionary with him. He was able to go longer than Kenneth, but we're just making sure that we're careful."
Brandon Staley on the kicker competition:
"We're in a competition. Those guys are going at it. What we wanted to do today was make sure that all three of them had an opportunity to compete, making sure that they had a consistent holder, a consistent snapper, so that we could evaluate them accordingly. We're at the beginning of that. The other thing, it's not just the field goals; it's kickoffs. That's a big component to the game of field position. We're planning on scoring. Our kickoff coverage is a big component of that position, too. We're at the beginning of that evaluation. The good news is that we have three more games to evaluate against other people. I was excited for them to get as many kicks as they did today."
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