FS Eric Weddle (Danny Murphy/Scout.com)
Another season, another new starting tandem at safety for the Chargers. This year's duo figures to be Clinton Hart at strong safety and Eric Weddle at free safety. Going into the 2007 season, it was Marlon McCree and Hart. Going into the '06 season, it was Terrence Kiel and McCree.
So the Chargers will try the Clinton Hart-Eric Weddle ticket after showing Marlon McCree the door in the offseason. McCree landed with the Broncos and Hart recently snagged a five-year contract extension.
Hart has been coming on strong in his three years since arriving from Philadelphia as a street free agent. He paid his dues on special teams and showed well when getting an occasional sniff on defense.
His big break came last year when Terrence Kiel ran afoul of the law and the Chargers lost patience with him and his off-the-field troubles. So when general manager A. J. Smith canned Kiel, all eyes turned to Hart.
"We think he will really thrive in the years to come with more experience," Smith said. "He's been in our program fro a while in a backup role and special teams contributor and we had watched him closely as a player and like his year-round work ethic."
Hart will also be asked to bring along Weddle.
The Chargers moved up in last year's draft to snag Weddle in the second round. They liked his play so much in his rookie year that they decided they could do without the veteran McCree.
With McCree gone, Weddle will become a starter in just his second year. And no doubt he will lean on the steadying influence of Hart, a six-year pro.
Hart's can-do attitude stems from the long road he took in becoming a starter on one of the NFL's elite teams.
He spent two years in the Arena League and played a season in NFL Europe. He made the Eagles' roster as a backup in 2003 and then came to the Chargers the following year looking for a spot.
He was spot-on last year as a starter, when he collected the third-most tackles on the team.
"To travel as far as I've traveled to get to this point and have a team and organization believe in your and ground hold of you and give you that tight hug, it means a lot," Hart said.
--By all accounts, QB Philip Rivers' rehabilitation from his major knee surgery this offseason is on track. But the Chargers, at Rivers' request, aren't allowing any video to be shot of him running at the team's offseason workouts.
--OLB Shaun Phillips has even more motivation to add to his sack total this year. Phillips, who was second among Chargers with 8.5 sacks will donate $1,000 for each sack in '08 to the After-School All-Stars sports program for San Diego's inner city youth.
"They provide kids with opportunities to learn the principles of teamwork and discipline just like I did when I was a kid," Phillips said.
--The Chargers' minicamp will be held May 3-4 at Chargers Park. There will be two sessions on May 3, and one the following day.
--Want to go on the ultimate Chargers road trip? The club is offering packages to fans wanting to be in London on Oct. 26 at Wembley Stadium. The cost ranges from $3,900-4,500 per person.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "A lot of people were waiting to see if I could get it done." -- S Clinton Hart, who was awarded a five-year contract extension after playing well in 2007, his first season as an NFL starter.