Bolts Turn Bitter Ending into Motivation

QB Philip Rivers (Shana Siler/Scout.com)

The Chargers have started their 2010 workouts, which means they can finally file away 2009. Right?

Uh, to a degree.

"I don't think that game will ever leave us," quarterback Philip Rivers said of the Chargers' playoff debacle in losing to the Jets. "That taste needs to be in our mouth throughout the summer.

"But now is the time you really push forward and look ahead."

With the weights banging again at Chargers Park and the brass upstairs formulating a draft plan, there is a new buzz around the team.

That doesn't mean that dreadful playoff day when they hit the third rail against the Jets is forgotten. But what's that they say about spilled milk?

"I know it's early and anybody can be enthused and going hard the first week," Rivers said. "But this first week has been unbelievable. The attendance and the guys that have been in there early. Our 7:30 group has never been as big as it has been -- that doesn't mean they work harder than the 10 o'clock group, I'm just saying they are energized and excited about going."

That sinking sensation of being upset by the upstart Jets is almost going, going, gone. Rather than reflect on what could have been, Rivers is looking at the future -- while looking at the Colts.

"Much has been made of a Colts' comparison how they kept getting in there and getting beat, getting beat but you just have to keep doing it," said Rivers, as the Chargers have lost three of their four playoff games. "Eventually, you hope, you're going to get over the top."

But it all starts at the bottom, and that is where the Chargers are right now. They are trying to build a strong foundation for next season by getting their offseason off to a solid start.

While eyeing his teammates getting their work in, Rivers, the former North Carolina State star, is hyped about his new teammates. Rivers follows the college game closely and he is eager to learn which prospects become Chargers.

"You watch guys for a couple of years and then you know some of them are going to be your teammates," said Rivers, knowing his backfield needs some bodies. "Indications are you are going to get a couple guys on your side of the ball at the skill positions -- at running back in particular.

"I know the guys upstairs put in the time to evaluate these players they want to add guys that can help us reach the top -- something we haven't done yet."

Soon the rookies will arrive, wide-eyed and void of the disappointment those returning to the team feel from that heartbreaking Jets loss. But Rivers shares in their glee that they are NFL players.

"It is always exciting," said Rivers, who was traded to the Chargers on draft day from the Giants for Eli Manning. "It adds more guys to what we hope is a championship team. We are able to press on and we are moving forward.

"Before long we will back out on the field practicing and gearing up for another season. It will be with that in mind and seeing who are new teammates are."

NOTES, QUOTES


CB Nathan Vasher
Jonathan Daniel/Getty
--New CB Nathan Vasher is fitting in during the off-season weightlifting sessions. "I knew it would be a perfect situation for me to get here and help out because the team is already so good," Vasher noted. "With those guys being here and with Quentin (Jammer) being here and some other guys who I'm familiar with, it's really just icing on the cake." Vasher and Jammer were teammates at Texas.

--QB Philip Rivers threw out the first pitch in the Padres' opener. The man who makes his living by being accurate was well off the plate with his offering.

--With LaDainian Tomlinson off to the Jets, CB Quentin Jammer touched base with his old teammate to ask if he could take over his locker. "I couldn't think of anyone better," Tomlinson replied. Jammer and Tomlinson were not only NFL teammates, but as Texas high school all-star players as well.

--The Chargers are anxious to learn of their schedule when it is released on Tuesday: In addition to the home-and-away series with AFC West rivals Denver, Kansas City and Oakland, the Chargers will play these teams at Qualcomm Stadium: Arizona, Tennessee, San Francisco, Jacksonville and New England. The road games are at Houston, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Seattle.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It would be crazy and they would need a little more room on that stage." -- QB Philip Rivers on how he could duplicate Drew Brees' act of lifting his son and the Vince Lombardi Trophy after winning the Super Bowl; Rivers has five kids.

TEAM NEEDS

Running back: The Chargers were dreadful running the ball last year, and that was with LaDainian Tomlinson and Michael Bennett on the roster. But those plus-30 running backs are gone and the Chargers are desperate to fill that void.†Darren Sproles remains,†but he's not considered an every-down back because of his slight frame.

Defensive tackle: The Chargers got comfortable with Jamal Williams here, but the three-time Pro Bowler was cut. When the Broncos signed him -- which derailed the Chargers' plans of bring Williams back at a more team-friendly rate, the need here skyrocketed. Ryon Bingham, Williams' backup, returns after missing last season with a biceps injury. But that is a big drop off in production.

Cornerback: With Antonio Cromartie being traded the Jets and Antonio Cason unable to hold down the nickel role last year; the Chargers could be in the market for a fresh face to start opposite Quentin Jammer. Cason will be given the first shot here -- the team has signed two veteran street free agents -- and some in the organization feel he will be up to claiming the spot. But just in case -- and considering Cason's troubles last year in the slot -- the Chargers could draft some insurance at this position.

Defensive end: The Chargers could be looking for an upgrade from Jacques Cesaire to start on the other side of Luis Castillo. Cesaire has played well in spurts but he has also been slowed by various injuries. Castillo has well has a past which shows it can be foolish to count on him for a full season. The Chargers thought they may have erased this need when taking a flier on Vaughn Martin in the last draft. But Martin, who played his college ball in Canada, continues to be a long-range prospect. At the minimum, the Chargers could use some young depth here.

MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.

FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS

--C Dennis Norman is at a spot where the team has depth and won't come back.

--OL Jon Runyan is going to retire and run for Congress.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)

--*OLB Marques Harris (not tendered as RFA) is a decent pass rusher but the Chargers will likely see him go where he would get more of a chance to contribute.

--*LB Dontarrious Thomas (not tendered as RFA) seldom saw the field when arriving late last year and appears to be a goner.

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (*indicates restricted because of uncapped year)

--*ILB Tim Dobbins (tendered at $1.176M with fifth-round pick as compensation) is a solid backup after getting lapped by Brandon Siler; should return.

--*WR Malcom Floyd (tendered at $3.168M with first- and third-round picks as compensation) could likely get more passes thrown his way elsewhere, but he likes San Diego and will likely take a little less to remain here.

--*WR Vincent Jackson (tendered at $3.268M with first- and third-round picks as compensation) is the team's top receiver and will be brought back -- unless the team has grown tired of his immaturity; that's doubtful after two 1,000-yard seasons.

--*DL Travis Johnson (tendered at $1.226M with first-round pick as compensation) will probably have to settle for less money, but the former first-round pick of the Texans might have found a home in San Diego.

--*LT Marcus McNeill (tendered at $3.168M with first- and third-round picks as compensation) is a stud at left tackle and among the team's biggest offseason priorities.

--*OLB Shawne Merriman (tendered at $3.168M with first- and third-round picks as compensation) will return, possibly, if willing to swallow his pride and lower his price tag. A motivated Merriman playing on a one-year deal could be attractive to the Chargers.

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS

--OLB Antwan Applewhite (tendered at $470,000) can deliver a burst off the ball and is keen on special teams. He should be brought back.

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

--DT Alfonso Boone: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--OT Jeromey Clary: RFA; (tendered at $1.684M at second-round compensation).
--*DT Antonio Garay: Not tendered as RFA; terms unknown.
--DT Ian Scott: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--*RB Darren Sproles: RFA; (tendered at $7.283M at first- and third-round).
--FB Mike Tolbert: ERFA; $470,000/1 yr.
--TE Kris Wilson: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

--RB Marcus Mason (waivers Redskins).
--CB Donald Strickland: FA Jets; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Nate Vasher: FA Bears; $4.5M/2 yrs.

PLAYERS LOST

--RB Michael Bennett (released).
--WR Demetrius Byrd (released/non-football injury).
--CB Antonio Cromartie (traded Jets).
--*C Eric Ghiaciuc: Not tendered as RFA/Browns; terms unknown.
--TE Brandon Manumaleuna: UFA Bears; $15M/5 yrs, $$2M SB/$3M RB.
--WR Kassim Osgood: UFA Jaguars; $6.675M/3 yrs, $2.975M guaranteed.
--RB LaDainian Tomlinson (released).
--*QB Charlie Whitehurst: RFA; re-signed, traded to Seahawks.
--NT Jamal Williams (released).

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