<strong>July 26, 2005</strong>
Source: <a href="http://www.chargers.com/news/headline_detail.cfm?news_key=2200">Chargers.com</a>
For the past couple of weeks, Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer has put away his whistle in order to entertain other roles in his life, mainly grandfather, family man, and golfer. But with training camp now just days away, Schottenheimer was back at Charger Park Monday preparing for his 29th NFL season.
"It's amazing, I was flying back on the airplane from North Carolina last week after spending time with family and I thought, â€˜How did we get from January to July so fast?'" Schottenheimer said. "It's remarkable. That's kind of the pace that we find ourselves in these days. I spent my whole time off trying to make sure that I was rested, but now it's time to get back to work."
While veterans won't hit the practice field until Friday, rookies are scheduled to begin drills on Tuesday. Schottenheimer is anxious to hit the field.
"We're all very happy about the group of guys that we were able to pick up through the draft, and we can't wait to get them out there," Schottenheimer said. "We felt like we got a lot done when we had them here in the offseason, but we're excited about the opportunity to take that to the next level and really get going with this group."
Tuesday and Wednesday's rookie practice sessions will not be open to the public. However, Chargers fans will be invited to attend a majority of practices throughout camp. Friday morning's practice, the first full-squad practice of training camp, will be open to fans.
As Schottenheimer spoke of the 2005 season on Monday, he continually referred to the Chargers schedule. After winning the AFC West a year ago, the Bolts will face the league's stiffest competition in '05. Their slate includes road games against both defending conference champions, the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles. The Chargers also travel to face the Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets in addition to their division battles in the always testy AFC West.
"We've got quite a challenge," Schottenheimer said. "The schedule is a difficult one. We go on the road and have pretty good competition there. Arguably, this is as tough of a schedule as I've faced, but in the past in that situation, what I've sought to do is to make sure that we just understand to take care of the next week. Ultimately, if you qualify for the playoffs having played a strong schedule, I think what it does is it prepares you as you move forward into that competition. That's the approach that we're taking."
After experiencing the success that the Bolts did a year ago, there is an air of confidence present Charger Park. Schottenheimer is excited to see how the liveliness transfers to the football field once the team begins full-squad drills on Friday.
"I sense there is an excitement in the organization, in our players, and our coaches," Schottenheimer said. "There's an anticipation that's a very, very positive energy that I think we can use to fuel our progress."
As various publications begin to reveal their predictions for the 2005 season, the Chargers have received several impressive reviews. But just like they did in '04, the Bolts won't look into what prognosticators have to say.
"My feeling has already been expressed to our players," Schottenheimer said. "A year ago, nobody thought we'd do anything, and they were wrong. Now there are a lot of people predicting us to do this and that. We didn't pay any attention to them a year ago and we're not going to pay any attention to them now. You have to just go perform."
The Chargers have the rare luxury of returning all 22 starters from their 2004 squad. Nonetheless, there will be a handful of position battles during training camp. Schottenheimer relishes the opportunity players will have to fight for spots.
"The competition raises not only the level of the individuals, but the level of the whole team," Schottenheimer said. "That's what you're looking for, and I've never believed that you say, â€˜This guy will definitely be our starter.' Now I can say that and the likelihood is that it would be right. But what if you're the second guy behind him? We had (Bernie) Kosar (in Cleveland), and he was going to play. We had (Joe) Montana (in Kansas City), and who was going to beat him out? But nonetheless, the important thing is to put them in the fire. Give them a chance to compete and let's see what happens."
According to the head coach, the battles to watch will be in the secondary. During the 2004 season, Drayton Florence stepped in and played well when Sammy Davis was forced out of action with an injury. Davis and Drayton could find themselves in a dogfight for the starting position this season. In addition, safety Bhawoh Jue will enter the mix at safety.
"I would say right cornerback in particular will be interesting," Schottenheimer said. "That's going to be a very interesting competition to see between Drayton and Sammy. From a competitive standpoint, the safety position will be one of the most difficult decisions that we'll arrive at. Generally, those things tend to resolve themselves over a period of time, but we'll be looking very closely at that position."
Fortunately, the Chargers are in good physical shape as they enter camp. Linebacker Ben Leber spent some time in a protective boot this summer while battling a foot injury. Wide receiver Reche Caldwell is fully recovered from a knee injury that cost him most of the 2004 season, but defensive end Adrian Dingle is still feeling some of the affects of his previous knee injury.
"Ben has made a lot of progress over the course of the last 10 days, but he's been out for a considerable length of time. We may monitor his reps," Schottenheimer said. "Dingle has really come along over the last month, but you know, a year ago, we worked Adrian one practice a day. He's further along now than he was this time a year ago. Maybe we'll get one and a half sessions a day out of him or so."
The Chargers are also excited to be at home this summer. After conducting training camp in Carson for the past two years, the team will be at Charger Park this season.
"I'm excited about it," Schottenheimer said. "I think it's great for our fans. They played a key role last year. I know our players are looking forward to it. The fact that we're going to be able to be at home is something I'll enjoy. There's just a positive vibe going around here, and we can't wait to get things rolling and make another run at a championship."