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Toughness: A Look Inside the Chargers 2022 Mindset
In Part 2 of a three-part series, take a peek into how the Bolts want to be built this season
By Eric Smith Aug 25, 2022

Bill Parcells once summed up what life is like for an NFL head coach.

Every single day, the Hall of Famer with a pair of Super Bowl rings explained, there are going to be five or six unplanned things that come across a head coach's desk.

Parcells noted that while wins and losses are important to one's success, sometimes their tenure is defined by how they handle those unexpected items.

In other words, Parcells said, coaches need to be mentally tough to deal with whatever is thrown at them on a daily basis.

Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley let out a chuckle when told of Parcells' mantra.

"The reason why he said it is because it's true," Staley said with a laugh. "He's one of the top coaches to ever coach.

"You have to have the mindset that when those things do come across your desk that you have a certain control and poise," Staley added. "I think of that word — poise — as something my parents taught me. Be calm in the fire and just be able to take things that are really tough and be able to look at them from a neutral perspective."

The Chargers wrapped up training camp Wednesday, and have one preseason tilt left before they turn their full attention to Week 1 against the Raiders.

In Part 2 of a three-part series, is examining some themes that Staley wants his team and the Bolts organization to embody in 2022.

While we focused on Physicality in mid-August, today we'll look at a word that Staley (and Parcells) alluded to above: Toughness.

"Toughness is mental," Staley said. "You've got to have the mental toughness first. It's your mindset and approach going into a game or practice or meeting or a lift.

"Then, it's your response to however that result expresses itself — whether it's a good result, bad result or somewhere in the middle," Staley added. "Mental toughness is also being able to do things over and over and over and over and over again, and then being able to come back from it. It starts with your mental toughness."

In terms of his players, Staley laid out what he expects from his team day-in and day-out.

Staley said that he has the same expectations for them whether it's August or December.

"When I think of mental toughness, I think of consistency in performance," Staley said. "It's not the result so much, but it's your ability to operate at a high level all the time. Whether you win or lose, operate at a high level.

"You find out a lot about yourself when you win, too," Staley added. "People say it's when you lose, but what's your response when you win? We may have won the drill or won a play or won a game, but did we play well? Is it up to our standard?"

Quarterback Chase Daniel is the elder statesman on the Chargers roster at 35 years old. As he enters his 13th season in the league, the former undrafted free agent echoed his head coach's message.

"This is the National Football League, it's a multi-billion dollar business," Daniel said. "You are expected to perform, and perform at a high level each and every day. Coach Staley holds us to that standard."

The Los Angeles Chargers play the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday, August 20, 2022 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA.

When asked how he learned to ace the mental toughness aspect of his career, Daniel went back to his rookie season in 2009 with the Saints.

Daniel said he quickly caught on to the work quarterbacks Drew Brees and Mark Brunell was putting in on and off the field.

"Coming from college, I thought I was a grinder in terms of tape and film and what it took off the field," Daniel said. "But seeing them took it to another level. I still have that in me and take it to heart this day."

Daniel later expanded on just what exactly he's learned by sticking around the NFL for over a decade.

"I think it's just by getting callused, by going through adversity and bouncing back," Daniel said. "By knowing what it takes to win in the National Football League.

"Being mentally tough actually starts at an early age, even in high school," Daniel continued. "When you go through adversity, it's how you're going to respond and act. It's definitely a learned trait.

"It's not easy to do sometimes," Daniel added. "Sometimes things are just going the wrong way. And even when they go the right way, you have to stay even-keeled."

Kyle Van Noy, another veteran on the Chargers roster, knows all about the journey that makes up an NFL season.

A two-time Super Bowl winner with the Patriots, Van Noy likened an NFL season to a marathon, where each day is a viewed as a step in the journey.

But the wise 31-year-old said players can embrace mental toughness in all facets of their life, not just in football, but then apply what they have learned to the grind of the regular season.

To Van Noy, a father of two, mental toughness is pushing yourself to accomplish things even when your body and mind are tired.

"That's half the battle in life," Van Noy said. "A lot of people sometimes give up, and that's not the best option. What if you just applied one more day? And stacked one more day?

"Then the benefit you've always wanted could slowly come to fruition," Van Noy added. "Nothing you want is easy, that's not how it works. You do it, and then go to the next thing and the next thing. Then it's like, 'Alright, we've got this.' Then you just keep it going."

The Los Angeles Chargers practice at Training Camp on Saturday, July 30, 2022 at Jack Hammett Sports Complex in Costa Mesa, CA.

For the Bolts, that could mean staying sharp in meetings or getting an extra lift in when your muscles are sore. It could be an extra hour or two of film study per week, with the chance that it pays off on Sunday when that certain formation from the opponent is easily recognized.

It could also mean pushing through personal adversity, such as recovering from an injury.

Kenneth Murray, Jr., offered a glimpse into that earlier this week. The linebacker practiced for the first time in camp, mentioning the mental resolve it took to stay the course while rehabbing.

"I truly believe that adversity comes and it either makes you or breaks you," Murry said. "My life and who I am, I choose to use that to forge me into what I become today.

"I thrive on going out there and showing that every day," Murray added.

Being mentally tough also applies to the head coach, too, as referenced by Parcells' advice above.

Staley shared what he learned from his first season as an NFL head coach.

"You've got to realize that every single day, you have to be 'on' for your organization," Staley said. "That requires a lot of mental toughness because you're going to endure a lot of things that aren't just wins and losses.

"There's going to be a lot of moments throughout your day that really challenge you and challenge how you're going to stay consistent in your approach," Staley continued. "Are you going to stay steady? Or are you going to ride a wave?

"Being a head coach is, every single day, being that consistent person for your organization. It's a lot of little things. Not a lot of big things, but a lot of little things," Staley added. "The NFL is place where there are so many things happening every day that judge you and where you have to measure yourself. That's why I love it."

Staley noted that he doesn't do that alone, crediting the Spanos family, Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco and the Chargers coaching staff for helping him work through the daily grind.

Chargers players know that feeling, too. For some on the Bolts roster, they have done nothing but practice for almost a month straight. That will continue for the next two weeks until the regular season arrives.

But then a new grind will begin. Because while the games are what matters most, the work that a team or individual puts in throughout the week will dictate those outcomes.

And staying sharp each day and each week requires something that's easy to talk about but difficult to endure.

Staley wants his players to be physically imposing between the white lines, and mentally tough both on and off the field.

If the Chargers can do both in 2022, that could help get them to be the team the expect to be by the end of the season.

"You could be a really physically tough player, but if you're mentally weak, you have a ceiling," Staley said. "Or you could be a mentally tough player, but you're physically weak, and that's not great either.

"Whatever your role and responsibility is, you're going to need [mental toughness]," Staley added. "You have to remind people of that and that have to be confronted with that every day."

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