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Bolts hope window of opportunity doesn’t slam shut

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Sep 9, 2009.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a href="http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=txchargerspreview&amp;prov=st&amp;type=lgns" target="_blank">Associated Press</a>

    By Bernie Wilson

    <div class="alignright"><a href="http://bolttalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/1251392641.jpg"><img class="size-full wp-image-5272" title="LaDainian Tomlinson and Philip Rivers" src="http://bolttalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/1251392641.jpg" alt="LaDainian Tomlinson and Philip Rivers" width="189" height="151" /></a></div>

    SAN DIEGO(AP)-They're the team that always seems to do the least with arguably the most.

    Here come the San Diego Chargers, who once again are being labeled by some as having the most-talented roster in the NFL.

    The Chargers hope this year, finally, is the one when they reach the Super Bowl.

    "Anything less than a Super Bowl championship, it doesn't exist for us," said tight end Antonio Gates, who comes into this season healthy, unlike last year when he was still recovering from offseason foot surgery.

    The one thing that's noticeable about these Chargers, besides the talent, is that while their goal is to win the Super Bowl, they're a lot less chatty about it than in recent seasons.

    "I like this year's focus more than anything else," said quarterback Philip Rivers, who threw 34 touchdown passes last year to break Hall of Famer Dan Fouts' team record, and led the NFL with a 105.5 rating in 2008.

    "This locker room has a unique feel to it. We're all tired of talking about it. I think that's good, because there's a long season ahead."

    The Chargers are like a golfer deemed the best not to have won a major championship. Their three straight AFC West titles look nice, but even general manager A.J. Smith has acknowledged that the Bolts really haven't accomplished anything.

    There was the 14-2 regular-season record in 2006, followed by the spectacular meltdown at home in the playoffs against New England that turned out to be Marty Schottenheimer's last game as coach.

    They got to the AFC championship game the following season under Norv Turner, but injuries and the then-perfect Patriots were too much to overcome.

    They barely made the playoffs last season, needing Denver's historic collapse plus a four-game winning streak simply to finish 8-8. A stirring overtime wild-card win against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts was followed by a knockout punch in Pittsburgh, when the Chargers were exposed by the more physical Steelers.

    The Chargers' window of opportunity has been open for a while. When it slams shut is anyone's guess.

    "In today's NFL, teams don't stay together too long," said LaDainian Tomlinson, the star running back who almost got the heave-ho in the offseason due to salary cap and injury concerns. "They have to be broken up; everybody can't be paid and that whole process that happens.

    "So you can't say, ‘We will get it next year.' The window of opportunity is closing, and it's not as wide as it used to be and we certainly know this."

    Rivers got his money this summer, a six-year contract extension worth $93 million, with $38 million guaranteed.

    But he's not a big believer in the window of opportunity theory.

    "I think that's probably an overused term, one that halfway can make sense," Rivers said. "But you'd like to think you have confidence in yourself, confidence in these guys, whoever's in here, we're always going to have a chance. So when it closes, should we just all go home and not play anymore? You'd like to think that it's never going to close, but at the same time you understand that sense of urgency because the group that is here won't be here forever.

    "A new window will come along, but the window that we have here with this nucleus and this team won't be the same for too much longer."

    Smith said during training camp he felt that last year's Bolts "were a playoff-caliber team that was on the rise. When you play like we did last year and you're 8-8, you've lost your elite status, in my opinion.

    "Yet a lot of people seem to think that, at least in rhetoric, that we're one of the better teams," Smith added. "That's very flattering, but that means nothing to us until we prove it at the end of the year. So we've got a lot of work to accomplish to get back up there. You are what your record says it is."

    Tomlinson said he's recovered from a toe injury that plagued him from the season-opener on, and then a groin injury that kept him from playing against the Steelers in the playoffs - the first time in his career he missed a game due to injury. He was held to a career-low 1,110 yards last year, which still ranked fourth in the AFC.

    Tomlinson and speedy little Darren Sproles(notes), who got a $6.62 million contract as the team's franchise player, will run behind a line that struggled at times last year and has a rookie, Louis Vasquez, at right guard.

    The defense is looking to regain the spark it lost when outside linebacker Shawne "Lights Out" Merriman had season-ending knee surgery after the 2008 opener.

    Merriman is eager to have a strong season, but for the time being will have to play through the distraction of being accused of domestic violence by reality TV star Tila Tequila.

    Merriman was arrested early Sunday after Tequila accused him of choking and throwing her to the ground while she was trying to leave his suburban San Diego home. Tequila signed a citizen's arrest warrant accusing Merriman of battery and false imprisonment. Both are felonies. The District Attorney's office began reviewing the case on Wednesday and will decide whether to charge Merriman.

    The Chargers open Monday night at Oakland.

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