NT Jamal Williams (Donald Miralle/Getty)
The Chargers open training camp in less than two weeks, but don’t expect to see the stars in full force until the calendar hits September. San Diego will be cautious in practicing its core players, especially with many of them coming off injury-shortened seasons. Team expert Michael Lombardo explains which players should be in for light workloads.
For some players, a light training camp regiment won’t be optional. TE Antonio Gates (toe) likely won’t be ready to participate, nor will C Nick Hardwick (foot). Philip Rivers (knee) should be ready, although he’ll be rested occasionally and is unlikely to work twice a day. Andrew Pinnock, coming off microfracture surgery, will also be limited.
Other players will be rested as a precaution. NT Jamal Williams and C Jeremy Newberry are both 10-year veterans who suffer from chronic knee pain. They are savvy and experienced enough to get ready for the season without a full allotment of repetitions. LaDainian Tomlinson, who has a knee issue of his own, should see some respites, too.
But there is another group of players who should get some days off for another reason altogether: The young players behind them have earned the extra repetitions. Here’s a look at the players in this category:
--Luis Castillo has missed six games in each of the last two seasons, while Igor Olshansky has missed time due to injuries in two of the last three years. They should be given some days off so that defensive line coach Wayne Nunnely can get an extended look at second-year players Andre Coleman and Keith Grennan. There is a chance either Coleman or Grennan could land on the active roster this season.
Unlike last year, when the Chargers players were working furiously to get on the same page with a new coaching staff, this year’s team has both continuity and experience. That changes the priorities for training camp, something that must be reflected in the practice schedule.
--In spite of his suspension, Stephen Cooper can practice full-time during training camp; that doesn’t mean the team should let him. Second-year linebackers Anthony Waters and Brandon Siler would benefit more from taking those reps, and they’ve earned them.
--Mike Goff, 32, enters the final year of his contract in 2008. Scott Mruczkowski, Goff’s heir apparent, could use some extended playing time to ensure a smooth passing of the torch. It’s not like Goff would miss the repetitions. He’s started every game for the last five years and has a firm understanding of Norv Turner’s offense.
The team must protect its current stars while developing the stars of the future. This group plans on playing into February…there’s no need to jeopardize that in August.
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Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.