OLB Melvin Ingram (Al Bello/Getty)
It's San Diego, so it's no surprise to see people swimming. But on the Chargers Park practice field? True, to a degree, as the Chargers' rookies have absorbed a tsunami of new information, play-calls, terminology and a little bit of seemingly everything else as they make the transition into the NFL.
"There's a lot to do, even beyond learning this system," said first-round pick Melvin Ingram, an outside linebacker who has shown well in his brief appearance. "I'm ready to get going and thrilled to be a part of this franchise, but I don't expect everything to be easy."
The Chargers are counting on many of their freshest faces to have an immediate impact as they try to reach the playoffs for the first time in three years. But to be keen in the fall and winter, the rookies need to get it right in the spring and summer. And that process is in full bore.
"This time is invaluable," said center David Molk, the first of the Chargers' two seventh-round picks. "There's a lot to take in, but we've all played football before, and eventually instincts take over. I don't think I'll be perfect during these early stages, but the key is to learn and fix the mistakes you make. Play by play, practice by practice, the goal is to keep getting better."
The Chargers are anticipating Ingram seeing the field quickly, especially on passing downs. And strong safety Brandon Taylor, a third-round selection, will be allowed to push Atari Bigby, another new Charger (but a veteran) for a starting spot.
Other veterans asked to learn a new system include wide receivers Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal and fullback Le'Ron McClain; outside linebacker Jarret Johnson is getting his cleats wet for the first time with the Chargers.
In recent times, the Chargers have also been slammed by injuries, which places an emphasis on their depth being up to speed, just in case. That is another reason the offseason is such a key to a team that finished 8-8 last year.
"Over the past few years, we've used a tremendous volume of players during the course of the season," coach Norv Turner said. "We know we're going to need reserves and we're going to need young players to play.
"Right now we're learning about these players and what they can do and how they can help contribute. We're looking for players to play to their strengths right away and eventually develop into complete football players."
--An estimated 20,000 fans paid tribute to former linebacker Junior Seau last week in a ceremony to celebrate his life at Qualcomm Stadium. Among those speaking at the event were some of the biggest names in Chargers history: Super Bowl coach Bobby Ross, Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts and former Charger and one-time NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson. There were plenty of tears shed for Seau, who committed suicide on May 2. But the ceremony was also filled with stories and tales that spoke to the 12-time Pro Bowler's vibrant life. Ross told stories of the time Seau dogged it, and how Seau dogged him before every game to have some time to fire-up the team. "I wanted to stress with the team that we wanted a complete effort," Ross said, launching into his first memory. "We threw this seven-on-seven pass and I blew the whistle and said, 'Repeat the play; Seau loafed.'
"Now I'm 5-9, 195 pounds and this guy was 6-4, 255 pounds and he turned around suddenly, real fast, and he said, 'What did you say?' I said, 'Repeat the play; Seau loafed.' He said, 'I didn't loaf, I didn't loaf!'"
Ross didn't retreat.
"After practice we'll go look at the film, and we did," he said. "Junior looked at that play and pointed his finger at me and said, 'Coach, that will never happen again.' And you know what? It didn't happen again. Ever."
What took place every game was Seau cozying up to Ross.
"He'd come up and put his arm around me and say, 'Coach, can I have them for a few seconds?' I said 'sure' and I went into the coach's office and got me a Coca-Cola. And he walked up and down that dressing room and he challenged those guys. All I had to say was 'Let's go.'"
--To cap the ceremony, team president Dean Spanos announced that Seau's No. 55 jersey would be officially retired. The only other Chargers' numbers retired are for Lance Alworth (No. 19) and Fouts (No. 14).
"Junior's accomplishments on the field speak for themselves," Spanos said. "His play on the field combined with his leadership and charisma became the face of this team for more than a decade. I can't think of anyone more deserving of this honor."
--RB Curtis Brinkley, who survived a shooting before entering the NFL and then had to sit out of football for a season, was awarded the team's Ed Block Courage award. Brinkley was honored for his sportsmanship and courage for overcoming his obstacles in becoming a NFL player. Brinkley could be the team's top backup to No. 1 back Ryan Mathews this season. Brinkley, an undrafted rookie, has played in 13 games the past two seasons.
--With strong safety Brandon Taylor agreeing to a four-year contract, the Chargers now have all seven draft picks signed - nearly two months before the start of training camp, the first time that has happened in recent memory.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He taught me the true meaning of giving back to a community. I sat there and watched him doing so much, and that was with people pulling him in so many different directions. I saw it so much that he impacted me to give back to the community. It was because of him I gave back to this community, because Junior did. He was so special. He encouraged me to give back as much as I can, and to this day I'm still doing the same thing, because of him." - Ex-Charger LaDainian Tomlinson on what he took from the late Junior Seau after playing with him in Seau's final two seasons in San Diego.
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