Take a look at top quotes from Head Coach Brandon Staley, S Derwin James, Jr. and RB Austin Ekeler after Wednesday's joint practice with the Cowboys:
Head Coach Brandon Staley
On S Derwin James Jr.'s contract extension:
"I'm just really excited for him. It's just really special, any time you see a dream come true. That's what happened today, a dream came true for him. You know how hard that he had to work in order to make it happen. This wasn't like every other big contract that gets signed, because you know what he had to go through in order to make it to this point in his pro football career. He overcame a lot to earn this contract, and he earned every cent of it. We love him. It was great to see him out there in No. 3 [jersey], in shoulder pads and in a helmet. He was a big, big leader for us today out there."
On today's joint practice:
"No. 1, my hat goes off to the Cowboys, their organization, their players. I thought it was just a really good, competitive day. We got to get a lot of good work in. I thought that there was respect on both sides. A lot of good players on that football field, and two really good teams, I think. I thought the special teams periods were really good. One-on-ones, and then during the team periods, we were able to get a lot of situations covered. There was a lot of good football on both sides, and that's the way it should be when you have two good teams playing against each other."
On his 'synergy' with James Jr.:
"It's the ultimate synergy. He knows how I call things and he knows what to expect. Then, he's anticipating. He gets that call, and then his mindset is, I'm out there. It's amazing what you'll be able to listen to. If you guys could hear him mic'd up, how on top of it he is — like when he gets a play call, and then that formation breaks, like he is so on top of it. It just makes you feel so good because you know what he does for everybody when he's out there. He's one of these guys that when he's on the sideline, it's like he's out there. He'll be a big lift for us next week when he gets back into practice."
On the defensive unit's performance today:
"I liked the competition. I felt like we were able to play a lot of guys. I thought that we were physical at the line of scrimmage. They have a good O-line. They have two of the best backs that you're going defend. They're bigger guys. Zeke [Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott] is as good of a contact back as there is. He has as good of vision and pace there is. [Cowboys RB Tony] Pollard, he's dynamic. To be able to face two guys like that was great for us. A quality tight end. A quarterback like Dak [Prescott], who is so experienced and has seen it all/ There are a lot of good coaches over there. I thought it was really good competition, both sides. I liked the way we competed on defense today. I felt like we took the field the right way. I liked the physicality and the toughness, overall."
On if the offense seeing 'different pressures' from the Cowboys' defense was 'by design' as a way to 'figure it out on the fly':
"This is the perfect place to figure it out. You want to be able to do that. Some of the un-scouted looks, you know what Dallas did last year, but maybe they have added some new things based on new people that they have. That's part of why these practices are valuable, it's so that you can go against somebody else's personnel and scheme, and then test your rules. These aren't game-planned practices. We kind of have rules of engagement about making sure that the other side knows what groupings we're playing and stuff like that, but you want to go play ball and figure it out. That's why these practices are awesome. That's a really good defensive group over there. I can't wait to look at the tape."
Safety Derwin James Jr.
On signing his contract extension:
"I'm feeling amazing. First off, I just want to say thank you to the Chargers for believing in me — from [Owner and Chairman of the Board] Dean [A. Spanos], [President of Business Operations], A.G. [Spanos], [President of Business Operations John Spanos], to [Salary Cap & Personnel Assistant] Mikey [Spanos], [General Manager] Tom Telesco. You all heard [Head] Coach [Brandon] Staley yesterday, thank you to him. Thank you to my agent [David Mulugheta], the best agent in the world. Thank you to my family and my loved ones that really helped me get to this day. I just wanted to say that."
On if it was difficult to be at practice but not participating:
"Heck yeah, it was super hard. Everybody knows how much I love football and how much I want to be out here. It was just hard. I was just taking it day-by-day. Like I say, controlling what I can control. I knew it would happen, but having the confidence to come out here every day and trying to get myself better in ways that I could."
On Head Coach Brandon Staley's high praise yesterday:
"Like I said, whether it's them saying I'm the heartbeat or saying I can play multiple positions, all of that carries [weight]. That's a privilege to me for people to be able to think of you like that. I feel like that carries a lot of weight and just have to keep getting better and not be satisfied with it. Don't get arrogant, just keep working and staying humble."
Running Back Austin Ekeler
On S Derwin James Jr.'s contract extension:
"Finally. He's a great player. Every time he's on the field, it's a whole different defense. The way he plays, the way he runs the defense, just the attitude he brings. I think it was inevitable for him to get his next contract. It was just a matter of time and when. Ended up getting it done today and glad to have him back on the field."
On today's joint practice with the Cowboys:
"When you get these joint practices, especially early in training camp, early in the year, there's a lot of learning. We didn't know what they were going to come out in and they showed us some looks today, defensively, that we weren't really prepared for. We were kind of figuring it out on the fly. They're going to get you sometimes. You're going to get them sometimes. It's a push back and forth. When you don't really game plan — like, we just watched a couple of clips last night. 'Hey, this is what we expect, but no idea really what's going to happen.' Come out, play, you compete, and you try to adjust on the fly. I like that because it puts us in situations where it's a little bit more stress on our team and we're going to see how we are going to react. That's where you really see the true value in your team and how you can actually react and play under stress and under times where it's not going your way and things aren't maybe as planned out."
On the importance of joint practices:
"Coach cannot say, 'Hey, this is our preseason game." For me, I don't really see it like that because every day I'm coming out here trying as hard as I can. It is different because we're adjusting to a different team, absolutely there is that aspect to it. As far as me coming out to compete and trying to get better every day, it's the same thing for us. I'm going to do that regardless if the Cowboys are here or if we're playing the Chargers or if we're going against ourselves on air. It's all about being on my fundamentals, making sure that I'm efficient, making sure I'm in the right spot doing what I'm supposed to do. I think it's just a good mix up for us, definitely when we're able to see a different team because now we can adjust a little bit, play against someone else, we don't have to keep hitting ourselves. For me, I feel like every day is our preseason, until we actually get to Sundays."
On if the teams were respectful today and how the teams are able to balance competition and respect:
"It comes down to your team leaders, in my opinion. What is your team about? It starts with your coaches and then the guys that people look up to on your team. If you have some respected guys there that are giving a message to your team — like today, I was talking to the other linebackers before we did 1-on-1s. I was like, 'Look, guys, let's go. We're going 100 percent. We're trying to make each other better, but nothing extra. We're just here to work, we're trying to get better, and then we'll move on.' It's having those conversations with them, they respected it, they were about it too, and it was like, 'Yeah, now we can have some friendly competition.' It's football, things are going to happen, there are going to be people on the ground. It's fine. We'll get up, pick your guys up, get back to your side, and we'll move on. It comes down to — I don't know what happened on the defensive side, but today on offense, we stayed together and moved on. We definitely got challenged today, like I said and got some new looks. It was a little frustrating, but you keep your head together and stay together because, at the end of the day, that's all you have is your teammates."
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