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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Beloved Charger Nation!


In a poll recently conducted by Sports Illustrated, NFL players were asked which team, other than their own, they’d most like to play for. The Chargers ranked second among the 32 teams as the most desirable team to play for.

With the beaches, sunshine, restaurants, attractions and a winning NFL franchise, San Diego would seem to be the ideal home for a professional football player, and a poll conducted by Sports Illustrated shows that the Chargers are one of the most coveted employers among NFL players.

The magazine recently asked NFL players which team, other than their current team, that they’d most like to play for. The Chargers were the second-most mentioned team, taking 8.5 percent of the votes. Only the Dallas Cowboys (11.1 percent) received more responses.

Chargers players cited many reasons why they think their club is attractive to other players and success on the field was the most frequent factor they cited. Team President Dean Spanos has shown a commitment to winning by consistently making the Chargers one of the highest cash-spending teams in the League and signing key players to long-term contracts.

“In any organization, success starts at the top,” defensive end Luis Castillo said. “The Spanoses are committed to winning and they’ve done the things necessary to help us be successful on the field.”

Since 2004, the Chargers have won 64 games, the third most in the NFL over that period. They’ve won three consecutive AFC West titles and four of the last five, and San Diego has participated in the Divisional round of the playoffs in each of the last three years.

“What we’ve done here the past six years, being a class program, guys want to be a part of that,” wide receiver Vincent Jackson said. “We’ve won a lot of games and we’re a playoff contender every year. I just think we have a real nice aura around us and every player wants to win.”

Linebacker Kevin Burnett, who signed with the Chargers this spring after four years with the Cowboys, cites on-field success as the biggest factor in his decision to come to San Diego.

“They keep winning,” Burnett said. “That’s the most attractive thing. The second thing was that they were giving me an opportunity to play. Those two things should be attractive to any player.”

Style points don’t mean anything on Sundays, but they can reflect how a team is perceived. Since Norv Turner became head coach in 2007, the Chargers have scored the third-most points in the NFL offensively (27 ppg). San Diego is known for its aggressiveness defensively as well with its attacking style. Qarterback Philip Rivers believes players are drawn to the systems.

“On both sides of the ball we have a very fun, exciting, get-after-it scheme,” Rivers said. “Be it a defensive player or offensive player, it’s a very inviting and enjoyable environment to be in. You throw in outside factors like the weather and things, I can see why guys had us on their list of places they’d like to play.”

The Chargers also spoke of the fun personalities that fill their locker room. The players genuinely get along well with each other and enjoy playing together. That’s something that’s discussed with their friends around the league, and it’s something other players want to be a part of.

“You can tell everyone on our team is real close,” offensive tackle Marcus McNeill said. “Guys don’t go home as soon as practice is over. We sit around and talk and play dominoes and stuff. It’s a family atmosphere and I think that’s what you need because when you’re real tight as a team that carries over to the field. San Diego is a great place to play and the Chargers have a lot of great players who are fun to play with.”

Then of course, there’s also that factor that makes San Diego appealing to everyone, not just NFL players, one that is evident by simply stepping out one’s front door.

“Everybody out east and north, they’re practicing in the snow when we’re in 75 and 80 degree weather,” McNeill said. “Where else would you rather be?”