Turner's Team Right on Schedule

Head Coach Norv Turner (Joe Robbins/Getty)

The Chargers' training camp is right around the corner and coach Norv Turner feels the team is right on schedule.

Before leaving to take some time off before the season gets underway, Turner, set to start his second year with the team after replacing Marty Schottenheimer and taking the team to only its fourth AFC Championship Game in franchise history, said the team met offseason expectations.

The team fell short in that contest against the New England Patriots, but it's no stretch to say it anticipates being in a similar situation come January.

The Chargers are confident they can compete with the elite teams in the AFC and hitting training camp in stride will help them reach that goal of their second Super Bowl appearance.

"The biggest thing for me is the young guys be prepared to compete when we go to training camp," Turner said. "The next thing for us is to get them healthy and we are on schedule to get healthy."

Among the walking wounded who remain the biggest concerns are tight end Antonio Gates (toe), center Nick Hardwick (toe). Both underwent offseason surgeries; Gates is farther along than Hardwick in his rehabilitation.


QB Philip Rivers
Stephan Savoia/AP

Quarterback Philip Rivers had his knee rebuilt but took part in virtually all of the offseason workouts. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who sprained his knee in that loss to New England was able to avoid surgery and the injury healed with offseason rest.

Turner said two players he expects to see continue to improve -- based on the offseason work -- are linebackers Jyles Tucker and Anthony Waters.

"I think they have had a great opportunity to get better during the offseason," Turner said.

Waters is especially worth watching as his rookie year never got untracked last year as he was still coming back from a serious knee injury and was inactive for all 16 games.

"He's healthy and I'm not sure he was ever 100 percent last year," Turner said of the third-round pick from Clemson.

Turner went on to say he is pleased in the manner rookie cornerback Antoine Cason has picked up the nickel role, covering receivers in the slot.

He also had praise for rookie Jacob Hester, who has seen snaps at fullback and tailback.

"Jacob has moved around all over; he is a versatile player," Turner said. "I believe he is going to be a real good player and a good blocker when we get the pads on."

That time is near with rookies such as Hester reporting to Chargers Park on July 20.

CAMP CALENDAR: Rookies and selected veterans report July 20. The full squad reports July 24 with a full-squad workout the next day. The Chargers hold a night practice on Aug. 6 and break camp on Aug. 23.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The club announced that Fred Dean will be inducted into its Hall of Fame this season. Dean, 56, who played for the Chargers from 1975-81, is the 34th player to be so honored. Dean will also go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer -- his career really took off when later playing for the 49ers. "Fred could be off the wall sometimes," said former teammate Louie Kelcher said, "But he always gave you 180 percent."

--President Dean Spanos announced that A.G. Spanos, his 30-year-old son and the team's director of marketing programs and business development for the past five years, has been elevated to executive vice president -- executive officer.

--The Chargers signed their fifth- and seventh-round draft picks, running back Marcus Thomas and tackle Corey Clark, both to four-year contracts.

--LT Marcus McNeill has made the Pro Bowl in each of his first two seasons. But last year he didn't have the consistency he had his rookie year. The Chargers did see encouraging signs from McNeill in the offseason. Coach Norv Turner said he was among the players showing the most progress in the offseason.

--The team is halting its season-ticket sales for the second straight year to save some individual game tickets for fans. It marks the second straight year the Chargers have started a season-ticket waiting list.

--Nothing new to report on the team's quest to build a stadium in Chula Vista, about 15 miles south of Qualcomm Stadium. There continues to be rumblings the team could consider moving to Los Angeles if Ed Roski follows through with his proposal to build a complex not far from Los Angeles.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Shawne Merriman has had an outstanding offseason and I think he is going to start real fast this year. He didn't start as fast as we would have liked last year." -- Coach Norv Turner on his Pro Bowl outside linebacker.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED

--RB Marcus Thomas (5/166): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--OT Corey Clark (7/234): 4 yrs, terms unknown.

DRAFT CHOICES UNSIGNED

--CB Antoine Cason (1/27).
--RB Jacob Hester (3/69).
--CB DeJuan Tribble (6/192).

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