The sun is blazing and the air is hot Monday morning at Jack Hammett Sports Complex, but Mike Pouncey has a fire inside him as he takes the field.
Now entering his eighth season in the league, Pouncey didn't originally expect to be in Southern California this season, but as he suited up in pads for the Chargers for the first time, he couldn't be more ready to return to the grind.
"I never thought I'd play for anybody but the Dolphins, but once they released me, it made me want to be an even better football player," Pouncey said Monday afternoon. "It made me want to prove everybody wrong. I'm excited to be here, I can't wait to help this run game out (and) help this football team do something special."
At 6-5, 298-pounds, Pouncey is a force to be reckoned with and there was lots of excitement among players, coaches and fans after his signing this past offseason.
"It means a lot (having him on the team)," Melvin Gordon said on the first day of camp. "I like him. I'm excited. He brings a different type of element to this line and leadership."
Pouncey felt that same excitement when he joined the roster.
"It just lit that fire again in me," he remarked. "This football team is a really good football team. They finished in the top of the league in offense last year and our defense is unbelievable. So I feel like with me coming here, it can only help the football team."
Joining a new team means getting to know the style of new teammates, and Pouncey is especially eager to be able to work with Philip Rivers. He's working on fitting himself into the system and learning as much as he can from the veteran QB.
"He's a great quarterback," Pouncey said. "He's proven to be a really good football player in this league and to be able to play with him, I don't take it for granted. I feel like it's something I lucked into and I'm going to take full advantage of it. Whatever Philip says, that's what goes. He's the leader of our football team, whatever he calls out there, that's what we're going to roll with."
There may be no more important relationship in football than that between the quarterback and center. As for Pouncey and Rivers? They've been forming a bond since OTAs, with training camp now allowing them to work "hand-in-hand" even more.
"Each and every day, he comes in with the right mindset," Pouncey noted. "He's a very smart football player. I just like that he knows everything that's going on in each and every play…He knows when blitzes are coming, so he puts us in the right protections and he gets in and out of plays when there are bad looks there."
Take a look through the top photos from camp, as the Bolts practice in pads for the first time.