<strong>July 6, 2005</strong>
Source: <a href="http://www.nflplayers.com/news/news_release.aspx?id=3929">NFLPLAYERS.COM</a>
Chargers wide receiver Keenan McCardell discusses his up-and-down 2004 season, his work in the community and what it's like playing for Marty Schottenheimer in an exclusive NFLPLAYERS.COM Q&A!
You have always been very active in terms of giving back. Talk a little bit about your involvement in the community:
"Giving back is part of what I am and part of what a lot of the athletes in the National Football League are all about. We're fortunate enough to be playing a game and be blessed and giving back our time and money goes a long way for a young child. By giving your time, it gives a lot of kid a light at the end of the tunnel."
Last year was a tough one for you having to sit out the first six games of the season while you were still with Tampa. Reflect back on the process a little bit:
"It was a tough experience. I was in a contract dispute with the team I had bled my heart out for and played my heart out for and they won't agree to agree with you. So you just have to sit back and stay strong and I did. And they stayed strong and in the end it turned out to be a great thing for me because I got the chance to join a team that was winning in San Diego. I was able to make plays for a team that wanted me to make plays."
The team was 3-3 before your arrival and only lost one game the rest of the season? Was that coincidence or did things start to really click as soon as you arrived?
"That just happened to be when we came together as a team. It was a little bit a faith, a little bit of luck, a little bit of all of it. We realized that at that point it was either go backwards or go forwards. History said that the San Diego Chargers had been going backwards but we made a pact with each other to move forward and put an end to that kind of thinking. We wanted to show everyone what we were all about and take that hard work we put in and take it out on the field. It worked out for us and turned out great. It wasn't completely what we wanted though. We wanted to be in the Super Bowl. This is a new year and we have the chance to show people how eager we are to get back into the playoffs and this time make it all the way to the Super Bowl."
What was it like for you entering a new locker room in the middle of the season? How did your new teammates respond to you?
"It was a little strange at first because I didn't know what to expect. But when I got to San Diego I realized how many great teammates I had. They welcomed me with open arms. They believed in what I could do to help and they believed in the things I was saying. As a veteran player, I didn't want to lead anyone down the wrong direction when I first got there. I just wanted to show them I was there to play football. It was a hold-out because of financial situation but I wanted them to know that I love the game and I was serious about it when I joined the team. I wanted to show them that I'm a guy who goes out and works hard every single day non-stop. That's what football is about and I tried to go out and lead by example. That's the only way I know how to do it."
What comparisons can be made between the revival you went through in Tampa a few years ago and the revival in San Diego that began last season?
"Each week I felt the confidence growing in a lot of guys last year. A lot of the young guys started realizing this game is the same game we played when we were little. It takes a lot more thought process at this level but they realized that if they go out and work hard and put their all into it that good fortune would come to us. Coach Schottenheimer stressed that we needed to work hard in order to reap the rewards at the end. Those rewards came on Sunday. Each week we went out and played for each other. We went out and worked hard and wanted to show it. It worked out wonderfully for us. That is similar to how things went in Tampa in terms of guys slowly getting more confidence in themselves and their teammates."
You've played for your share of coaches throughout your career. What's it been like working with Marty Schottenheimer?
"All the coaches are similar in some ways â€“ when you are out on the field they want you to go all out and leave nothing in the tank. It's off the field and in between meetings where you get to know them. When I first got to San Diego everyone was saying, â€˜Marty this' and â€˜Marty that.' I don't judge a coach until I see him personally and up close. When I got to San Diego I realized Marty is a coach who demands a lot of his players on the field. But off the field, he respects the things that you want to do. He realizes that he has different personalities on his team and he tends to let people do their thing. He has his rules and if you follow those rules, you will get along fine with Marty. As a team, we realize that his rules are good for us on the field, off the field and for life in general. We respect that and in turn respect Marty. He respects us back."
Talk a little bit about quarterback Drew Brees and the astonishing breakout season he had in 2004:
"It meant a lot for all of us. He's a leader. The year before he went through a lot of turmoil and didn't know if he was going to be â€˜the guy.' Then they went in and drafted Philip Rivers and Drew may not have known what to do. But he just sat back and let everybody talk. Then he went out and worked his butt off in the off-season and came to camp ready to play. That's when good things started to happen and all the hard work he put into it paid off for him and the Chargers. I think he is the type of quarterback that you want on your team. He leads by example but if he needs to speak up and say something, he can do that too. People gravitate towards Drew and he has that leadership quality. When he steps into a room he commands respect and people want to get behind him."