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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Great turnout of veterans at Chargers Park

By: Scott Yoffe

There was a buzz around Chargers Park on Tuesday morning when 55 veteran players turned out for the official start of the team’s voluntary offseason strength and conditioning program.

Tuesday was the first day that many veterans were on hand as one at Chargers Park. It was a group that included quarterback Philip Rivers, running back Darren Sproles, tight end Antonio Gates, defensive end Luis Castillo and cornerback Quentin Jammer. Coach Norv Turner talked to the team about setting the tone and tempo of the team’s long-term goals for the upcoming season.

“We’ve had a number of guys in here working out on their own for the last month or so to get ready for today,” said a very pleased Turner. “What that says to me is that our guys are hungry and can’t wait to get going.”

While the roster changes as it does every year, the team remains focused and seems to welcome and embrace the changes. The players interviewed are looking forward to the new season and new opportunities ahead. One of the players who exemplified that feeling is Jammer, who is excited to see one of his close friends and former college teammates, cornerback Nathan Vasher, on the team’s 2010 roster.

“There’s a different feel around here and I think it will be good for us to have a fresh start with a fresh group,” said Jammer. “We always talk about change and change is good. I think it’ll be good for us.”

There were a lot of smiling faces on the field, inside the weight room and around the locker room. This is the time of year when teams build camaraderie, before two-a-days and summer’s sweltering heat sets in. Jacob Hester is one of those who embraced being around his teammates for the first time since late January.

“It’s good to get back here and work out with the guys, have a few laughs and get the camaraderie going again,” said Hester. “You get used to seeing them every day for 9 or 10 months and then for two months, you don’t see or hear from them. So it’s good to get back and see everybody.”

Jammer echoed those sentiments.

“It’s always good to get back,” said Jammer. “When people say you become a family, it sounds cliché, but it’s really not. We are a family and you start missing guys the longer you’re away from them. It was good to get back and joke around with the guys.”

Though offseason workouts are completely voluntary for players, it was impressive to see the number of veterans milling around Chargers Park for the unofficial kickoff to the 2010 season. For the first time in three years, Gates can train this offseason without coming off surgery or a major injury. Two years ago it was a toe and last year it was an ankle. But this past season, Gates played right through to the Pro Bowl and his body feels fresh and rested. He too could feel the vibe from his teammates who were all excited about being back on the Chargers’ campus.

“It’s always exciting to come back and be a part of the offseason program,” noted Gates. “Just to come back and see the energy and the number of guys that showed up, it means something to them.”

One particular player for whom this offseason has special meaning is defensive tackle Ryon Bingham. His entire 2009 season was derailed when he fell victim to a triceps injury during a training camp practice. The injury became all the more painful to absorb as he watched a number of his teammates on the defensive line fall victim to a rash of injuries that plagued the line throughout the ’09 season. Bingham says this is the best that he’s felt in a long time.

“The biggest thing is that I’m in shape and my arm feels good enough to come back and play,” said Bingham. “I’ve done this before, having to sit out a season, but to have it happen later in my career was a bummer. Last year would have been a really good opportunity since there was potential for me to play a lot. But God has a plan for everyone, that’s how I look at it, and this year is it. I’m ready to hit the ground running.”

Offseason workouts will continue for the team until late June. Most weeks the players will work out four days a week with Wednesday being the scheduled day for rest and recovery. Current workout sessions are scheduled for 7:30 a.m., 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Each session lasts approximately 90 minutes with work split between conditioning on the field and strength in the weight room. Jeff Hurd, Vernon Stephens and former wide receiver Eric Parker run the team’s strength and conditioning program.


Three of the team’s restricted free agents were not on hand for the first day of voluntary workouts, including tackle

Marcus McNeill and wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd…Rivers is scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Padres home opener against the Atlanta Braves next will be the second time he’s thrown out the first pitch for one of their games…in 2007, the Padres invited Rivers to throw out the first pitch before a game against San Francisco…Sheila Chudzinski, wife of Tight Ends & Assistant Head Coach Rob Chudzinski, gave birth to a girl named Margaret Ruth on Saturday…it’s the couples’ third child and first daughter…Director of Security Dick Lewis was recently honored during Black History Month at the San Diego Police Museum with a plaque that will permanently hang on the museum’s wall…Lewis worked for the police department for 21 years and is still highly regarded for his work in keeping a lid on racial tension and gang activities during the ’70s and ’80s…Lewis has worked for the Chargers since 1989…one player who is back with the team is running back Curtis Brinkley…he was with the team in 2009, but just before the start of training camp Brinkley was the victim of a shooting incident in his native Philadelphia…he spent the entire 2009 season recovering from his injuries and Brinkley is now healthy and cleared to participate in all team activities.