C Nick Hardwick (Donald Miralle/Getty)
The Chargers tipped their hand regarding center Nick Hardwick's foot. The team signed former Raider and 49er Jeremy Newberry, a two-time Pro Bowl center, just in case Hardwick's injury isn't healed by the regular-season opener.
Jeremy Newberry, a 10-year pro, could fill in for Nick Hardwick after his rehabilitation got a late start by not undergoing surgery until well into the offseason. Newberry will compete with Cory Withrow as Hardwick's possible early-season replacement.
"Obviously, if Nick was 100 percent and wasn't injured, we probably wouldn't be in this position," coach Norv Turner said. "But he isn't 100 percent.
"Again, we expect Nick to be healthy and we expect Nick to be ready to go. Things happen in this game and Jeremy is a guy that fits our needs at this time."
Newberry was a top-level lineman with the 49ers from 1999-2003 before a series of injuries derailed his career. Before landing with the Raiders last season, Newberry had played in but 11 games over the previous three seasons.
The Chargers are happy to be in the huddle with Newberry instead of blocking him. Newberry has been known to play to the whistle's echo, not afraid to deliver a pop which some might say is late.
"I'm not afraid to take a shot on somebody," Newberry said. "If I hurt you, I'm sorry and I'll shake your hand and buy you a beer afterwards."
What's certain is the high-energy Newberry's game is seldom flat.
"He gets after it," left guard Kris Dielman said. "He's not scared to pick up a fine here or there. He wants to win. Probably nobody is going to outwork him across from him."
The Chargers will keep their fingers crossed in regard to Hardwick. He missed four games last year when first getting hurt and had hoped to avoid surgery this offseason. But when the injury didn't respond to rest, Hardwick had to be operated on.
If Hardwick can rebound, the Chargers -- if nothing else -- have added some veteran depth with the hard-nosed Newberry. He can also play either guard spot and in a pinch, tackle.
--The NFL sold some 40,000 tickets in but 90 minutes for the Chargers-Saints game on Oct. 26 in London. "The Chargers are excited to see how much interest there is in the game and our team," Chargers executive Jim Steeg said. "We have heard from many, many Chargers fans who reside in the United Kingdom and Europe who purchased tickets through this sale."
--TE Antonio Gates, who is rebounding from toe surgery, is back running again. Well, kind of. Seems coach Norv Turner saw him being a little tardy for a team meeting and he jogged to the door. Turner did say that Gates is making strides in his rehab, but real running is still in the future. "He's exercising and working it pretty good," Turner said. "He's making great progress. I don't think they want him running yet."
--QB Philip Rivers was upbeat after being allowed recently to against the defense in a drill. Rivers hasn't been facing a pass rush has he returns from ACL surgery. "I was excited to play football again," he said. "Up to this point it's just been 7-on-7. You don't get a great feel for it with that. Sitting here the beginning of June, I feel really good about where we are (in the rehab process)."
--There's a chance WR Eric Parker, who missed last season with a toe injury, could participate in one of the offseason coaching sessions before they end on June 18.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "My mom used to pay me to knock people out of the game when I was a young kid. I used to get a dollar for every kid I put out of the game. When I was 9 years old, that was a lot of money." -- Chargers C Jeremy Newberry, on how he got his aggressive style of play.