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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

2010 Offseason workouts begin

By: Kevin Acee

Almost two dozen players have been around the Chargers’ facility on and off for the past few weeks, working their way into shape and hanging out after a couple of months away.

Still, what began this week — the organized offseason conditioning sessions that commenced Monday and continue in earnest beginning next week — is an actual start of something more.

“It’s the kickoff of the new year,” quarterback Philip Rivers said.

“That playoff game, the way it ended, will be with us the whole summer. But you turn the page. It’s the start of the 2010 season.”

Almost 30 players, mostly those who just completed their first or second season and some rehabilitating injury, reported to the voluntary workouts Monday. Veterans are asked to be at Chargers Park on Tuesday.

It is not expected that the Chargers’ high-profile restricted free agents will be at these workouts. Darren Sproles has been working out already, but the other players with the first-and-third tender (Malcom Floyd, Vincent Jackson, Marcus McNeill and Shawne Merriman) could decide to skip some or all of the offseason activities while not under contract.

The Chargers will not be the only team whose restricted free agents stay away from offseason workouts, and they figure to be understanding of that aspect of business until training camp.

“We’d like for all our players to be here,” General Manager A.J. Smith said. “If they’re not, that’s entirely up to them and their agents what path they want to go down.”

The coaches would like the players to be part of the team’s conditioning regimen and voluntary coaching sessions before the mandatory minicamp in late May. But head coach Norv Turner saw a bright spot considering the type of players in question.

“These guys have never had an issue of not being in shape or physically prepared,” Turner said.

For those who will be around the next few months, the Chargers have pushed back the bulk of their offseason work.

Instead of a full-squad minicamp the week after the April 22-24 draft, the Chargers will hold what Turner is calling a “rookie orientation” May 7 and 8. The mandatory full-squad minicamp will be May 26-28, about three weeks later than usual.

Neither will be open to the public.

With so many young players and players coming back from injury (the Chargers used 62 players last season), Turner likes the idea of having at least six weeks from the time the Chargers begin conditioning to the first football drill. That will give a few players who were injured more time to fully recover.

A later date for minicamp could also allow time for contractual issues with the restricted free agents to be sorted out.

And there will be some key new players, including a new No. 1 running back, a new starting cornerback and possibly other young players fighting for starting spots or significant playing time.

Said Turner: “I thought this was the best way to keep the most people involved.”