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5 Takeaways: Jim Harbaugh on Successful 1st Day of Bolts Rookie Minicamp


Day 1 of Chargers rookie minicamp is in the books.

Chargers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh met with reporters after practice, as did rookie wide receivers Ladd McConkey, Brenden Rice and Cornelius Johnson.

Here are five takeaways from their press conferences at Hoag Performance Center:

1. Wide awake for Day 1

Harbaugh could hardly wait to get the rookies in the building on Friday.

"It hit me this morning about 3:30 or 4 in the morning," Harbaugh said. "Woke up staring straight at the ceiling and said to myself, 'It's not just another day, it's today'.

"Maybe that's just another way of saying attack this day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind, but it was a great day," Harbaugh added.

The Bolts had 49 total players on the field for a nearly two-hour practice Friday, a group that consisted of the Chargers nine-man draft class plus 21 undrafted free agents.

A dozen non-roster tryout invitees were also on hand, as were seven players on the current Bolts roster including Max Duggan, Brevin Allen and others.

McConkey and Rice both outlined their emotions after their first day as a Charger.

"At first, I was coming out here but it didn't sink in," McConkey said. "Then I was out there all logoed up with the uniform and helmet on. Then it was, 'OK, it's time to go now.'"

Rice added: "First day was like me just being mentally focused. There's a lot going on with rookies, you have to learn the playbook as well, we have to get adjusted to the NFL, how to be a professional. You really want to put energy into the details because the details are what makes you great at this level."

Harbaugh noted he was proud of the rookies for how they handled Day 1 and said he considered it a successful first practice.

"As good as any first day you can hope for and farther ahead than what I was hoping for," Harbaugh said.

2. Merging on the 405

And while it was Day 1, it wasn't as if Harbaugh made the rookies do a full-on scrimmage right away.

There's an acclimation period that Harbaugh wants to go by, as the majority of Friday's practice featured individual drills and techniques.

"I don't believe in bringing guys off of airplanes from all over the country and going 11-on-11," Harbaugh said. "What you're allowed to do is not the level I want to go to with these guys.

"It's more of like a plane for me taking off of a runway. It starts at a dead stop and then it builds speed, builds speed, builds speed and then it's going so fast it has to lift off into the air," Harbaugh added. "I call that the glide theory, and that's what we were doing today. Getting the guys acclimated."

The Chargers will also hold rookie minicamp practices Saturday and Sunday before the rookies mix in with the veterans on Monday for the first time.

Harbaugh also used a different analogy — one on brand for Southern California — when describing how he wants these three days to go.

"Think of it this way, we got the veterans who have been going for about five weeks now, I look at this as my job of, we have rookies that are coming on to the 405 [freeway]," Harbaugh said. "The traffic is moving fast and here come these new players and I have Friday, Saturday, Sunday to get them to understand the system, to learn the plays so they won't slow down the veterans when they merge on Monday."

McConkey said Friday that he tried to slow things down in his mind during his first practice in powder blue.

"At the end of the day, football is football. It's a new place, new uniform, new people, new team and all that," McConkey said. "But I still have to go out there and run routes, catch the ball and block."

He later added: "I want to get in a routine, get in a rhythm and get going. Now we're here and kind of getting into that process now."

So far, so good for the dozens of rookies who got a small taste of the NFL on Friday.

"They came out and did exactly what we wanted," Harbaugh said. "I think we're going to have a really, really good chance — fighting chance — that when Monday comes, these rookies will be pretty close to up to speed and won't be slowing down the veterans."

3. Alt looks the part

It was tough to miss Joe Alt on the practice field.

The No. 5 overall pick definitely looks the part of an NFL tackle as he stands at 6-foot-8 and 321 pounds.

Sporting No. 76, Alt also showed off his athleticism and footwork during Friday's drills.

Harbaugh, for what it's worth, mentioned Alt's football IQ right away when asked about the former Notre Dame standout Friday.

"He's pretty close to having everything picked up mentally," Harbaugh said. "The mechanical engineering major in him is coming out in a great way."

4. Harbaugh makes his point

Harbaugh mostly watched the quarterbacks — Duggan and undrafted free agent Casey Bauman — on Friday.

But he wasn't afraid to put his whistle down and give the duo some pointers, too, as he got into stance and showed them different techniques in various drills.

Harbaugh beamed when asked if he loved taking a hands-on approach to the field.

"I do, that's why I chose coaching as a profession," Harbaugh said. "I love coaching guys."

And that's something he wants his staff to focus on, too, during the three-day rookie minicamp as the switch from coaching veterans to working with first-time NFL players.

"Real coaching," Harbaugh said about Friday's practice. "Coaching the veterans on our team, we got incredible players that if you tell them something once, they just get it immediately.

"I just felt more valuable as a coach today, I had to repeat it a couple times, tell them a few times," Harbaugh added. "Loved it, just loved coaching these guys out there today. They were really prepared, they've done a lot of work, meetings."

5. A serendipitous moment

A Connecticut native, Johnson might be the furthest Chargers rookie from home these days.

But it was actually a familiar sight for him to see the Bolt logo when he arrived at the Chargers team facility this week.

Johnson, a seventh-round wide receiver who played at Michigan, actually grew up a Chargers fan.

"I'm from the East Coast … why would I like a team from [California?] That's super random," Johnson said. "I can't really pinpoint something like that … but I'm playing for the Chargers now."

Johnson said he was drawn to the Bolts in the early 2000s by their high-powered offense.

"My favorite player was LaDainian Tomlinson," Johnson said. "I used to wear No. 21 in middle school and up until high school at some point. I loved his highlights and that was my number.

"I loved [Antonio] Gates and [Philip] Rivers and that whole squad," Johnson added. "Then they moved to LA and I still followed them. It's amazing that they are the team that drafted me."

An Honorable Mention All-Big Ten honoree in 2023, Johnson played in all 15 games with 14 starts during Michigan's perfect season enroute to a National Championship win.

He tallied 47 catches (second-most on the team) for 604 yards (third-most on the team) and a touchdown during the championship run.

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