Source: <a href="http://www.pe.com/sports/breakout/stories/PE_Sports_Local_D_chargers02.3a87b44.html" target="_blank">Press-Enterprise</a>
By JIM ALEXANDER
SAN DIEGO - The numbers keep piling up.
Keenan McCardell has surpassed 10,000 yards worth of receptions, the 23rd player in NFL history -- and fifth active player -- to do so. He is 28 catches away from 800 for his career, a feat accomplished by only 12 receivers. He has a streak of 89 games with at least one catch. And, at 35, he is among the league leaders in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns.
All of which is nice, but to the Chargers' veteran receiver it's basically insignificant.
"I'll talk about (milestones) at the end of my career," he said. "Right now I want Super Bowl rings. The only things that will make me smile right now are (championship) rings and hardware."
In 14 NFL seasons, McCardell has gotten two of them. He received one with the Washington Redskins at the start of his career, even though he spent the 1991 season, his first, on injured reserve for the season with a knee injury. He got another in 2002 with Tampa Bay, catching six touchdown passes during the regular season and two more in the Super Bowl victory over the Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium.
The pursuit of a third, or more, helps keep him going.
"I'd love Michael Irvin's (result), three of 'em," he said with a laugh. "That's something special. Or Jerry (Rice), who had five or six (actually, three). Nobody can ever take that away from you."
McCardell has started this season as if he were ready to put his personal stamp on No. 3. He has four touchdown receptions in three games, two each in the opener against Dallas and last week's game against the New York Giants.
He has reached a comfort level with the offense and with quarterback Drew Brees that didn't exist last season, when he joined the Chargers in Week 7 in a trade with the Bucs. McCardell, who hadn't played all year because of a contract dispute with Tampa Bay, stepped in and caught five balls for 65 yards after just four days of practicing with the club.
He finished last season with 31 catches and one touchdown in seven games.
"Where he began with us, it was like starting school all over again," Coach Marty Schottenheimer said.
His results last season were basically the result of talent and experience while he was learning how the offense worked and how Brees worked.
"I still felt like we had things going last year, but it just gets better and better," Brees said. "I've seen him run enough routes now that I know exactly what routes he's best at, and what his strengths are. On certain plays I know exactly where he's going to be because we've had a chance to run it enough times.
"I feel it when he's about to (improvise) because he's got great body control and he's played long enough that he knows where the holes in the defense are. It's that and the fact that I just trust the heck out of the guy. I'll throw it just about anywhere and he'll catch it."
Having an off-season's worth of mini-camps and a full training camp with the Chargers made things easier, both from the standpoint of timing and familiarity and from the standpoint of McCardell's ability to fit into the chemistry of the Chargers' locker room.
A normally gregarious sort, McCardell sometimes held his tongue last season.
"A lot of these guys knew how I could play, but the only way I could show them was during practice and games," he said. "I just went out and did what I do. I didn't say a lot. I wasn't here from the jump. I didn't know how everything went. Now I've been here. I can say things that I feel.
"...There's just something about being in the trenches with these guys during double-days and during the hard times that makes you respect every one of them. And they get to see how you perform in the hard times and they respect you. You're not just a guy who's coming in from another team that they hear about. They see it. That's the difference."
Asked how his game has changed over the years, from that one injured-reserve season in Washington to four in Cleveland, six in Jacksonville, two in Tampa Bay and his current tenure in San Diego, he talked about it in terms of getting more opportunities and taking advantage of them.
"I still cherish it the way I did when I first started, because every time your number's called you've got to make a play," he said. "I've matured a lot. I understand the game a lot more. I've always been a guy that made plays. I always was a fierce competitor and I still am. When I line up in front of somebody, I've got to win. That's just the way I feel.
"It's flown by, but I never look back. I always look forward. What's in front of me is what I care about, and hopefully it'll be many more (seasons). I love playing the game."