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In the sack is no place for Rivers, even in preseason

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Aug 26, 2009.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006

    Sad sacks

    Line's inability to protect Rivers vs. Cardinals is alarming

    By Nick Canepa
    Union-Tribune Columnist
    2:00 a.m. August 27, 2009

    SAN DIEGO – With a sweeping magnanimous gesture rarely seen these days in the virile NFL, Norv Turner has ended Chargers training camp 24 hours early. Maybe the head coach figures one less day of disparaged camp cuisine might help his football team win a Super Bowl. Maybe, as reported, he did it to privately work on a few surprises away from the prying eye of the massive, carnivorous San Diego media horde.

    My guess is the latter is true – it's doubtful epicurean Norv has spent much time worrying about food critic/cornerback Antonio Cromartie's culinary tweets – and let's hope one surprise is making sure his $92 million quarterback can ride through the next few weeks of preseason traffic in something other than an ambulance.

    I have little use for exhibitions. They're money-making scrimmages. Scores mean nothing. The Lions didn't win a real game in 2008. They were 4-0 in the preseason. The 1994 Chargers team that went to the Super Bowl was 0-5 in its exhibitions.

    The only outcome that matters is the injury report. First question: “Coach, anybody hurt?”

    With that in mind, I had a problem with San Diego's victory over Arizona in last Saturday's Exhibition II. Quarterback Philip Rivers, who was only making $40-something million then, was sacked four times in the first quarter.

    And I don't care where you're playing football. I don't care what the other team is doing. I don't care if the other team has 11 Pro Bowl defenders. I don't care if it's in August or December, on a street, or, as the song goes, in a Rolls or a van wrapped in mink or Saran. It's inexcusable.

    In fact, if anything, it's more inexcusable during the preseason than it would be when playing for money, because August is about scoops of vanilla schemes.

    Look, I've picked this team to win the Super Bowl, so what I saw was bothersome. If Dan Fouts' offensive line allowed him to get sacked four times when games didn't matter, heads would have been rolling down Friars Road. Maybe that's why it never happened.

    You've got to man it up, man. You've got to protect your guy. If it means holding, biting, scratching, clawing, Stooges eye-pokes, you do what you have to do. You take the flag before turning around and finding your quarterback on the grass and giving us the “aw, shucks” crap.

    I mean, that was their season being taken down four times the other night. They didn't give Rivers a six-year, $92 million deal because they want him to be delivering bread in 2010. They did it because he's The Guy. He's The Future. Elite quarterbacks are football's only true geniuses.

    No offense to Billy Volek, but if the Chargers lose Rivers, the only chance they're going to have for a ring is from one of those machines kids beg their parents to stick quarters into on the way out of supermarkets.

    And yet the Chargers football people came away from that first-quarter fiasco about as concerned as if they'd been playing Madden. I can see some of it. It was an exhibition. But their money was on the ground. Philip Rivers isn't free-agent camp fodder.

    When asked if he was disturbed by this revolting development, General Manager A.J. Smith, who doesn't miss much, shakes his head.

    “No,” he says, “because I could see what was going on. It's preseason. All you see is him dropping.”

    Well, I saw more than that. I saw Rivers dropping all right. But I saw him dropping primarily because his offensive line – especially the right side of it – was playing turnstile.

    “Why was he dropping?” Smith asked, not expecting an answer. “It's preseason; it's practice games. There is no continuity to practice games; you're trying to fine-tune things. It's real, but you don't get carried away with it. You just don't.”

    OK, so maybe I'm getting carried away. If holes aren't being opened up for the running backs – and they're not – maybe I can understand it in preseason. But sacks, those are something else.

    “You can either believe me or not,” Smith says. “But you asked the question.”

    It wasn't a bad question and I do have a bit of a problem in that I tend to believe A.J. Smith, who has yet to screw with me, as far as I know.

    “During the regular season, I'm looking for continuity on offense, defense and special teams,” he says. “During the preseason, I'm all over the place, looking around at players. If this happened during the regular season, I'd say we have a problem. I saw Peyton Manning went down four times. It's not pleasant, I agree. You can get hurt, but you can get hurt in practice. It torments me.

    “But I wasn't disturbed at the time it happened, let alone after watching the tape. There's all kinds of stuff happening. We had some injuries. We're trying to play in unison as a line. I understand what was going on.”

    So do I. Philip Rivers went down four times. When I have to count that high, it's not good.

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