We're two weeks removed from the 2019 NFL Draft, but today was the first time the rookies got to actually take the field at Hoag Performance Center.
With the start of rookie minicamp, the draft class, undrafted free agents and non-roster invitees all donned the lightning bolt for the very first time.
"It was good to be back out there doing an organized practice, watching guys compete and run around a little bit," mentioned Chargers Head Coach Anthony Lynn. "It's the first time we've laid eyes on some of these guys. It was good to see them…. It's an honor and it's a privilege to be here at the beginning of their careers and watch them grow as young men and football players, no doubt."
These next 72 hours will be a crash course in all things NFL for the rooks. As Lynn mentioned, "there's no balance;" everything from here on out is Chargers-related. These guys are eating, sleeping and breathing pro football. While a lot of work will be done off the field by studying and attending meetings, Lynn said a good chunk of what he and his coaches need to learn from the players will happen on it. As obvious as that sounds, it's true. The on-field approach greatly benefits a lot of the players.
"The meeting times, yeah that's all important, but you have to get them out there (on the field) and let them go through it," he said. "A lot of guys, they learn better from being on the field. A lot of our meetings have moved to the practice field. Our coaches were doing a good job of that this morning."
So what's the biggest piece of advice Lynn has for the rookies? Get ready to love the third phase of football, because it's going to be the key for a lot of them officially making the 53-man roster.
"I told these guys, we have a talented football team. For a rookie to come in here and win a starting job — that's going to be hard to do. They're going to have to create some value, and that's special teams. We look at play counts after games. How many plays did this guy have and how many plays did he have? Special teams is the quickest way to do that. I try to get those guys to understand that because a lot of those guys, they've never played teams before. They've always been the five-star (recruit) and the All-American in college. Now, for the first time in their life, they're going to have to play teams. That's going to be important for us this year."
These three days are critical as it's the only time the rookies are able to get reps without veterans being present. But as Lynn can attest, what waits for the rookies beyond this weekend is critical to their evolution during their first season in the league.
"(I told them) learn, get with a veteran when they get back here on Monday and learn how to be a pro. These guys, they're new employees. They have veteran guys to take them under their wings and teach them the ropes. That's the quickest way to get these guys to fit in here. We talked about that a little bit this morning in the team meeting — the type of players that we like to bring on campus here. I think our locker room speaks for itself. When those guys get here on Monday, I think that's the quickest way to get these (rookies) going — tie their identity to one of these pros, hang out with them, watch them, see what they do and how they go about their business. Like I said, learn how to be a pro and grow up."
Chargers rookies donned the lightning bolt for the first time as members of the Bolts.