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From The Podium | Bolts Focused on Week 1, Not 2021 Finale Against Raiders

FTP Wed photo

Below are three takeaways from podium sessions before Wednesday's practice:

Staley, James feeling 'good energy' as Bolts prepare for season opener

It's official, we've made it to Week 1 of the 2022 NFL season. And the Chargers made it clear Wednesday they are solely focused on their season opener against the Las Vegas Raiders.  

Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley and safety Derwin James, Jr. spoke to media members before the first practice of the week and emphasized the 'good energy' across the organization heading into the 2022 season.

With a fresh haircut, a new number and recent contract extension, James explained why he's ready to get the season going no matter who the opponent is.

"I just feel good, overall," James said. "It's just good energy around the building, around the team. I just feel good."

James reflected on how he felt last season after the Bolts overtime loss to the Raiders in the season finale, but noted how different both teams look since the last time they faced each other back in January. James explained why he feels a new beginning for the Bolts beginning Sunday.

"I just feel like we get a new opportunity to start over, 0-0, and not let it come down to one game or we have to get in because if this team loses," James said. "We get to take care of every game, game by game, and leave it in our own hands. I think that is what's going to be unique about this season versus last season."

Staley echoed that message of the energy felt throughout the building and explained why he's feeling added confidence heading into his second season as the head coach.

"I feel more connected, for sure, because we just know each other better," Staley said. "Any time you're able to have the same people doing a lot of the leadership-type roles in our organization, I think that gives you a lot of confidence in terms of attacking a plan. I think that has shown itself, just the alignment of our ownership and personnel department, coaching, business side, all of those things.

"I think we have just full confidence in how we're doing things. Then, what I think that does is it allows the players to play at a high level because they can sense that alignment," Staley added. "They can just go out and play and have fun playing this game. That's what we've tried to do; bring in the right people, not just players and coaches, but everybody with the team. I think that there is that vibe that we have the right blueprint and we have, more importantly, the right people."

Staley: J.C. Jackson out of walking boot

Staley on Wednesday provided an update on cornerback J.C. Jackson, who underwent ankle surgery on August 23. 

"J.C.'s [walking] boot is off, he was running yesterday, and he is day-to-day," Staley said.

Wednesday marked 15 days since the procedure. The Chargers on August 24 that Jackson's return to play is approximately two to four weeks.

Staley was asked if the evaluation of Jackson would go up until Week 1 against the Raiders.

"Yes, I do. But things are very positive," said Staley, who also noted the cornerback "is on the road to recovery."

If Jackson does not play in Week 1, Staley said the Bolts are confident in cornerbacks Michael Davis, Asante Samuel, Jr., and Bryce Callahan.

"The real positive is that we've played with everybody in the secondary," Staley said. "We know exactly how to use them. I think that's the exciting thing.

"For us, as coaches, that's the comforting thing for us: we know who we are playing with. We know how to use the players that are going to be out there, so we have a lot of confidence in everybody that's going to go play out there in that game of, whoever it is, and make sure that they're in the right role to do so," Staley added. "Our guys have had a really quality camp, as you guys have seen. I think we've really built depth in our secondary. That progress is still ongoing, but like you said, it's going to be a tough challenge against those guys."

Jackson did not practice Wednesday. The first Injury Report of 2022 can be found here.

Ekeler: 'It's really special' to be one of eight team captains

During Wednesday's press conference, Staley announced the Chargers eight team captains for the 2022 season, an honor that Staley called 'the highest achievement' a player can receive from their teammates.

Running back Austin Ekeler was among the choices and was named a captain for the second straight season. Ekeler has talked a lot about how much his journey from an undrafted free agent out of Western Colorado to scoring 20 touchdowns in an NFL season last year means to him. Ekeler explained before Wednesday's practice why being named a team captain is so special to him.

"It's really special because it's been a long journey for me and really I just try to be myself," Ekeler said. "That's why I think it's really special because, 'Do I feel like am I a leader?'

"I don't know that's up for someone else to decide, but I'm just going to continue to be the person I am, try to motivate, try to bring people along while I'm trying to set a good example of what to do," Ekeler continued.

"That's kind of the role I've grown in to over the years going into Year 6 now and trying to help guys that are coming from different teams," Ekeler added, "guys that have come in behind me as far as age and kind of showing them the ropes and showing them, 'Hey, this is how it worked for me'. Whether you like that or not, is up for you to decide. And obviously, I was voted as a captain so it means a bunch."

After announcing the team's eight captains, Staley explained why being named a captain is such a significant honor.

"The few people who do get to play in this league and what that shield represents, all the people that have come before them — captains on other teams, captains on this team — and it's voted on by their teammates, and that's something that's sacred to me," Staley said. "Growing up the son of a coach, I think it's the highest achievement that you can receive from your teammates."

Quarterback Justin Herbert, wide receiver Keenan Allen, center Corey Linsley, James, outside linebacker Khalil Mack, defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day and outside linebacker Joey Bosa were named as the team's seven other captains.

For Staley, it's not just about those eight players voted as captains, he holds the entire roster accountable to be leaders.

"They will be wearing that 'C' on their jersey, but as I told the group, everyone on our team is going to have a hand in leading our football team," Staley said. "I'm really proud of the eight of those guys. I think they've certainly earned that mantle of having the 'C' on their chest. I'm excited for them to represent us this year in 2022."

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