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The Los Angeles Chargers practice on Tuesday, August 30, 2022 at Hoag Performance Center in Costa Mesa, CA.
Discipline: A Look Inside the Chargers 2022 Mindset
In Part 3 of a three-part series, take a peek into how the Bolts want to be built this season
By Eric Smith Sep 08, 2022
Photographs By Mike Nowak

In roughly 72 hours, the Chargers will kick off the 2022 season.

Over the next four months, the Bolts will play a 17-game regular season slate and endure the rollercoaster ride that is every NFL season.

There will undoubtedly be both highs and lows, sometimes within minutes of each other. There will be twists, turns and some unexpected moments, too.

Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley believes good things are on the horizon for his squad. But in order to attain that, Staley wants his team to focus on three key attributes.

In Part 3 of a three-part series, is examining those themes that Staley wants the Bolts to embody in 2022.

While we focused on Physicality in mid-August and dove into Toughness two weeks ago, today we'll hone in on the final word: Discipline.

Staley expanded on that term.

"Discipline is doing what you have to do on a day-to-day basis. And being relentless with that approach," Staley said. "Discipline … you've got to be able to commit to a certain process every day. You have to commit to a certain standard.

"When I think of discipline, I think of that," Staley added. "And when I think of discipline in general, it comes from within. Not anywhere else but inside you."

The Los Angeles Chargers practice on Wednesday, September 7, 2022 at Hoag Performance Center in Costa Mesa, CA.

The Chargers reside in the AFC West, a division some are saying might be the toughest in league history considering the talent stacked across four teams.

The Bolts will waste no time jumping into the division fray Sunday at home against the Raiders, which is Step 1 in what they hope is a long and fruitful journey.

Yet as Staley begins his second season in charge, he has parlayed his love for a sport other than football — which led to a surreal life moment for him this summer — to help sum up what kind of discipline he wants to see in his players.

Let's go back to the spring of 2004, when Staley was a senior at the University of Dayton. A longtime tennis aficionado, Staley recalled watching a kid only a few years younger than him win his first Grand Slam title.

"I was a college senior at Dayton and I think that was his first French Open [title]," Staley said. "I remember the kid in the cutoff shirt and the Capris and the long hair.

"If you're a sports fan and you see something special, you can notice it pretty quickly. That's something I was able to notice with him," Staley added. "He had that rare court presence, that rare creativity, shot making … just all the stuff that the rare players in any sport have."

Staley, of course, is talking about Rafael Nadal, who won the first of his nearly two-dozen current Grand Slam titles back then.

Since then, Staley has been an avid Nadal fan, tracking every tournament as he has jostled with the likes of Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic for the most major titles by a men's tennis player. To date, Nadal leads the way with 22, followed by Djokovic (21) and Federer (20).

Courtesy of the Chargers
Courtesy of the Chargers

On a late August day, Staley spent nearly a full minute straight explaining what Nadal has taught him from afar about both discipline and dedication to his craft.

"He's got rare focus. Rare commitment to his process and his routine. He's willing to give of himself what it takes each and every time he goes out there," Staley said. "What's hard for people to understand is what you have to give in order to be as dominant as he's been, and for what he's endured as an athlete from when he was a 19-year-old kid to now.

"Everyone has come after him. He gets everyone's best shot. Injuries, evolution, new young players, rivals that keep getting better," Staley added. "He's in the most historic era in tennis history with Roger and Novak. I just think of that rare focus that he has, and observing that up close was really cool for me."

But if that's what Staley observed on television over the years, it was nothing compared to a dream experience this summer when he watched a Nadal practice session during Wimbledon. It was actually the second interaction Staley has recently had with Nadal, the other being at Indian Wells in March.

"Being able to connect with him up close, I just have an appreciation for just the presence that he had," Staley explained. "Special players have that rare presence. They carry themselves with a certain type of poise, carry themselves with a certain confidence."

It's been more than two months since Staley traveled to England, but that experience has helped him shape what he wants the 2022 Chargers to look and act like.

That emphasis on discipline, said defensive lineman Morgan Fox, has been evident.

Fox, who was with the Rams in 2020 when Staley was the defensive coordinator, jumped at the chance to sign with the Chargers this spring and reunite with Staley.

He gave a peek at Staley's messaging to the team when he brings up being disciplined.

"Knowing your job and doing your job," Fox said. "Being disciplined enough to know your role, not try to do something outside of your role and also being disciplined enough to understand the defense.

"Being apart of the machine and understanding what you have to do," Fox said. "The discipline to study your playbook. He's pretty tough on DBs because he expects a lot from them and they have to have a lot of discipline between their communication, who's got to cover what, who doesn't have to cover what. For him, discipline is knowing and doing your job at a high level."

The Los Angeles Chargers practice on Monday, September 5, 2022 at Hoag Performance Center in Costa Mesa, CA.

Being discipline extends to both on and off the field.

On a bigger level, perhaps it means not committing any penalties or making sure a player is putting in the necessary amount of time watching film during the week.

Fox noted that from a defensive standpoint, it could also mean staying in a certain gap when the opposing offense runs the ball.

"It's tough sometimes," Fox said. "You're like 'I want to go shoot it, I want to go make this play' but you go do something you're not supposed to do, you step out of a gap and then it cuts back it's in your gap. Suddenly, what you thought was a big play is an 80-yard touchdown.

"Especially having the discipline to stay in your gap, not try to go make a play. Discipline to fight and be back in your gap and not worry about 'I can take the easy way out or not backdoor something'. Just be disciplined enough to play your technique and play your gap and make the play when it comes your way," Fox added.

Both Fox and running back Joshua Kelley said a major aspect of discipline happens away from the team facility.

Fox and Kelley each noted that what they do in the offseason, or whenever their teammates aren't around to keep them accountable, is a reflection of how disciplined they really are.

"For example, like my routine, just how I wake up every single day, do the same thing, watch this amount of plays, weight lift, to come here, work out and train," Kelley said.

"It's kind of a set routine I'm on. I feel like that's how I apply discipline and not say 'Ah damn, I want to sleep in.' But instead it's like, 'Let me get in here, watch tape, and handle my business,'" Kelley continued.

"When I really made the decision that I wanted to play pros, I really had to lock in and set a routine for myself. I think once you do get here, it's a little bit different because there's no school anymore," Kelley added. "This is more like, 'This is what you do the whole day.' It's a job so it's a little bit different. I think that is something that your first year you're like ,'Oh man, how learn how to be a pro.' Being a pro is different."

Fox, who is entering his sixth season in the NFL, echoed Kelley's thoughts:

"Just in this business, having the discipline, find your routine, stick to it, especially when there's a lot of times you don't want to, you know. You want to eat something you probably shouldn't eat or drink something you probably shouldn't drink," Fox said. "Maybe you want to stay up a little late, hang out with your friends, play video games or something but you need to sleep, you need to study or you're sick of studying football, so you want to go to do something.

"But it's having the discipline for staying in that mode for however long it takes to go where you want to go," Fox added.

Fox's final line in that quote is a timely one.

The Chargers long and winding journey that will be the 2022 season begins Sunday at SoFi Stadium.

Do the Bolts have the potential to be something special? Undoubtedly.

But they will need to be more physical than they were a year ago.

They will need to display strong mental toughness and not waver when the road gets rocky.

And they will need to stay disciplined on a daily basis, whether that's in the cafeteria, watching film or from the opening kickoff on Sunday through the gauntlet that is the NFL season.

Because if the Chargers can find a combination of those three factors more often than not in 2022, this upcoming journey could undoubtedly yield the results the Bolts are looking for.

Just ask Staley.

"They'll be no limits to where this team can go," Staley said. "That's the essence of great teams and great players, especially in this game. If you can keep this at the heart of your team, you'll be headed towards a good place."

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