The Los Angeles Chargers report for training camp in less than 24 hours.
On Thursday, Tom Telesco sat down with local writers to share insight on the state of the team.
Here are some notable takeaways from the Chargers' general manager:
About Antonio… – Talk of Antonio Gates potentially returning to the Chargers has been bandied about ever since Hunter Henry suffered his ACL injury. So, as you might expect, a possible reunion was the first question Telesco was asked. To that end, he didn't have much to share at this time.
"Got nothing new for you. If we ever do anything, we'll let you guys know first. I've got nothing new on him right now."
Young TEs in the Spotlight – Regardless of if the Bolts add a veteran tight end, Telesco explained how the team is comfortable with the tight ends already on the roster. In particular, he was quick to point out Braedon Bowman and Sean Culkin.
"(Braedon showed) last year, just in practice that he can really run and catch. That was just practice for us because we got him so late. We haven't seen him live in the games, so this will be a really big training camp to see if he can contribute in the passing game. And then Sean Culkin had a great year for us last year developmentally wise. Almost like a red shirt year for him. A full year, only dressed for (two games), but he's a big body, strong, works really hard, has pretty good hands, so these guys…they're two young guys that have a chance to contribute and we'll find out a lot more at training camp."
Linebacker Battles – The linebacker position was a bit of a revolving door a year ago after injuries hit the unit hard. The Chargers addressed the situation by drafting Uchenna Nwosu in the second round and Kyzir White in the fourth. The Bolts will also get Denzel Perryman back after the inside linebacker missed half of his 2017 campaign. As such, the GM admitted there is a lot of open competition when it comes to the unit.
"There's a lot of opportunities there. Really, on the 53-man roster, with that linebacker group, there's a lot of opportunities there. I think special teams will play a big part in it. We've got some young guys here that need to come along pretty quick."
A Big Camp for Mike Williams – It's a fresh start for Mike Williams, the seventh-overall pick who missed out on last offseason after tweaking his back. Not only that, he didn't return to the fold until Week 6 in what amounted to a lost season for the wide receiver. Thus, Williams has as much to gain as anyone from this year's camp.
"Last year is last year, but we're looking for him to step up and contribute this year. That's why we took him. He had a relatively full offseason program this year which is really important for every young player, but certainly for a receiver. It's going to be a big training camp since it's his first training camp."
Verrett Ready to Roll – There was no better sight this offseason than seeing number 22 back in the fold. Not only that, but "Feeva" looked like his old self after missing all but five games over the past two years. It sounds like there won't be any limitations on Verrett as Telesco admitted the team was extra cautious during the offseason.
"He was healthy in the offseason program and we were probably more cautious than we had to be. We probably held him back, and he probably wanted to do a lot more. We tried to gently ramp him up, just on volume. But he's a competitive player. He's full go. He wants to be full go. If you're going to play football, you've got to play full go."
A Rivers Pitch Count – With Philip Rivers entering his 15th season, it's natural that the veteran might receive some days off in order to conserve his arm. Telesco admitted that may come into play, although number 17 will likely fight it tooth and nail since he's such a competitor.
"We're cognizant of it. We do monitor it. We do it in the offseason program, but he's the type of guy you can trust to let us know when he needs to take a couple off. We can pretty much trust him, but it is something we look at….He's smart though. That's the perfect combination. He wants to work every day. If you do ask him to take a day off, he's going to fight it a little bit, which is great, but in the end, he'll listen. In the end, he's smart enough to know when too much is too much. Usually all the great ones do."
Tuning Out the Hype – The Bolts are a trendy pick to go far this year, and it's easy to see why when you take a look at the roster and the way they finished 2017. Still, talent on paper is one thing. Telesco insisted the team is tuning out the noise as they haven't accomplished anything just yet.
"Hearing that doesn't make me feel like we're on the right track. It doesn't really mean anything, and last year doesn't really mean anything. As far as looking at how we practice this offseason and how the team is put together, where the coaching staff is, I feel like we're on the right track. But, you've got to prove yourself all over again. We didn't really prove ourselves last year. We didn't make the playoffs, so you've got to earn it in training camp (and) you've got to grind in training camp. We have a head coach that's going to work these guys really hard. We have a lot of work to do to get this team going and it starts right here. Last year is last year, so it's like that for every team."
Kickoff Uncertainty – The NFL made drastic changes to kickoffs this offseason in an effort to improve player safety. Changes include players no longer getting a running head start, a no-contact zone and the ball automatically becoming a touchback once it hits the turf in the end zone. Telesco explained how the team won't really know its true impact until preseason play begins:
"That's strictly a wait and see. Obviously, I've talked to George (Stewart), but I've talked to other special teams coaches and we really don't know what it's going to look like. It's a pretty significant rule change that's never been tested, so none of us have seen it live before. Even in practice we'll probably do a lot of kickoff and kickoff return, but again we can't do it live. So we'll have to wait until preseason to actually see how it works, and then kind of come back and say, 'Okay, how are we going to block it now and how are we going to cover it this way?' It could really change throughout the preseason and into the regular season because we don't really know what it's going to look like. I'm really curious if it even changes the type of players you use on kickoffs and kickoff returns. I'm not sure yet."
Chargers Training Camp is kicking off soon! **Click here** for information on attending one of the 14 open practices between July 28 and August 23. Want to attend camp in style? **Enter here** for your chance to win a VIP camp experience for you and 10 friends, which includes a meet and greet with a player!