<strong>July 27, 2005</strong>
Source: <a href="http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2005/07/27/sports/professional/chargers/21_31_467_26_05.txt">North County Times</a>
SAN DIEGO ---- The Chargers were busy on and off the field Tuesday. The team completed the first of two days of rookie camp at Chargers Park, with all but two of its fresh faces under contract: top pick Shawne Merriman, an outside linebacker, and wide receiver Vincent Jackson, a second-round selection.
Signing in time for the afternoon session was defensive lineman Luis Castillo. The Chargers' second first-round pick agreed to a five-year, $7.035 million contract, which guarantees him $4.664 million through various bonuses, option clauses and first-year salary.
"I'm glad to be here the first day,'' said Castillo, the 28th overall selection. "I was worried. You worry if there is enough time to learn the plays and have that camaraderie with my teammates.''
Castillo's draft standing took a hit when he tested positive for steroids at the NFL scouting combine. The former Northwestern star stressed it was a one-time mistake and offered to forfeit his guaranteed money if he fails another test.
"Oh yeah, that's in there,'' Castillo said. "That was no joke about that. I said we would do it and we did it.''
But while Castillo was arriving, the Chargers' spinning door spit out running back Jesse Chatman. The team's second-leading rusher in its ride to last season's AFC West title was released after failing a physical.
"Wow, I'm surprised,'' quarterback Drew Brees said.
Not the Chargers' brass.
General manager A.J. Smith and coach Marty Schottenheimer admitted their frustrations with Chatman's sparse offseason attendance. Among the issues were Chatman not working with the team's medical staff in rehabilitating his injured toe, and the difficulties in keeping his weight close to 250 pounds.
It was Chatman's contributions last season when Pro Bowler LaDainian Tomlinson nursed a sore groin which the Chargers embraced, especially considering Chatman's toe ailment derailed his practice time.
Chatman averaged 6 yards per carry, rushing for 392 yards and three touchdowns.
"I thought he did a very admirable job and I have a respect for his toughness and willingness to compete,'' Schottenheimer said. "But this is no longer a six-month job. This is a seven-, eight-, nine-, 10-month job and it requires that you meet all that criteria.''
Added Smith, who helped sign Chatman as an undrafted free agent out of Eastern Washington in 2002: "We're moving in a different direction.''
With Chatman pointed toward the door, it opens doors of opportunity for others. Michael Turner, a fifth-round pick last year, becomes Tomlinson's backup. Darren Sproles, the undersized but shifty rookie out of Kansas State, could see more field time.
"We like our depth with what we have,'' Smith said.
And Schottenheimer said that third-year pro Andrew Pinnock, a fullback, would shift to tailback.
There was also movement in regard to Merriman (positive) and Jackson (negative).
Smith said Merriman's negotiations were ongoing and there was a line of communication between the parties.
According to Smith, among the reasons there's no contract is the lack of other first-rounders to sign.
But there is dialogue, Smith stressed, which some view as surprising. Many believed these negotiations would be difficult with the hard-line reputation of Merriman's agent, Kevin Poston, and with Merriman skipping the offseason workouts because of his belief the Chargers wouldn't negotiate in good faith if he suffered an injury.
Poston didn't return a call Tuesday.
Neil Schwartz, Jackson's agent, did. He was somewhat baffled in Smith saying that talks had "gone south for now.''
"I'm not sure I know what that means,'' Schwartz said.
When asked if Schwartz anticipated a protracted stalemate he said, "I would hope not. I don't have a track record of that.''
The Chargers' recent success of getting high draft picks in on time is shaky. Philip Rivers, Tomlinson, Quentin Jammer and Brees all missed portions of training camp before agreeing to terms.