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Inside Slant - 08/04/08

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Aug 4, 2008.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    Source: <a href="http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=teamreports-2008-nfl-sdg&amp;prov=sportsxchange&amp;type=team_report" target="_blank">Yahoo Sports</a>

    <img class="alignright" title="Stephen Cooper" src="http://www.ksl.com/emedia/apimage/NYOL57904152344.jpg" alt="" width="161" height="214" />The Chargers' biggest break likely came in February, not long after their stellar season came to a disappointing end.

    Before the announcement that inside linebacker Stephen Cooper would absorb a season-opening, four-game suspension for violating the league's drug policy, the Chargers signed the experienced Derek Smith.

    To the Chargers' glee, there's been little decline when Smith trots in for Cooper on running downs, when the 12-year pro works occasionally with the first team.

    "He's a stabilizing force and he is a savvy veteran," linebackers coach Ron Rivera said. "You don't see the fallout in terms of physical play.

    "And this isn't a stop gap. This is a guy that could be a very productive player not just after four games, but the entire season."

    Smith, who was let go by the 49ers, has been encouraged how the Chargers' coaching staff conducts training camp. Like most of their counterparts, the days of beating up players during the summer months has gone the way of $3 a gallon gas.

    "It's a long season," said Smith, who has played in 168 games, starting all but four. "And if you go into training camp and you wear your body out, it's just a matter of time before you have injuries."

    Instead, Smith consistently delivers pain to those with a football tucked under their arm.

    In his first nine seasons, he had at least 100 tackles, with a high of 189 in 2003. The last two years, he's fell just short (93 and 98) with various ailments compromising his totals.

    But Smith is healthy, and longs for something he never tasted in San Francisco or before that, Washington.

    "Having a chance to win a championship is something that is very important to me," Smith said. "And I think this team wants a championship."

    But every team-especially this time of the year-clings to the hope that this is the magic year. Smith, though, said the Chargers are bent on letting the preseason press clipping go to their noggins.

    "I think this group of guys, and the coaching staff, don't create that environment," said Smith, who has played in five playoff games, but never the Super Bowl. "I would say you could get lured into that, but I think they have high expectations for themselves-the coaches and players.

    "You got to have those, but you still have to be able to be loose, go out and play football and not press. You can't be a robot.

    "They do a good job of balancing that out."

    It helps to have a seasoned pro like Smith-especially during the first four games-in the middle of the defense.

    "He says he is re-energized and I'm glad to hear that," coach Norv Turner said. "He is moving fast and the guys are teasing him on how young he looks."

    Camp Calendar:" "  The first night practice at Chargers Park is Wednesday. The team breaks training camp on Aug. 23.

    Notes, Quotes

    • With camp entering its second week, there is a slight light at the end of the tunnel-an exhibition game against the Cowboys. "The end of the week, you get that anticipation for a game," coach Norv Turner said. "We've got to zero in. We don't particularly game plan for Dallas but we have to prepare for them so we know how to block them and the plays they like and how to defend them."

    • Inside linebacker Derek Smith gets to enjoy one of his hobbies by playing for the Chargers-surfing. "I'm not that good, but it's fun just to get out there," he said.

    • Quarterback Philip Rivers took off his first practice on Friday, as the team takes it easy with his surgically repaired knee. "That was the plan all along," Turner said.

    • Norv Turner said the team doesn't have an interest in safety John Lynch, the Torrey Pines (Del Mar) High product who was granted his release from the Broncos. "We like our group of guys and we are going to (go) with what we've got," he said.

    • Cornerback Quentin Jammer is doing his best to survive camp's dog days. He had fun placing fake nameplates over his teammates' lockers: LaDainian Tomlinson's is Jim Frown; Antonio Gates' is Phony Gonzalez and Antonio Cromartie's is Chump Bailey. Jammer made one for himself: Pacman Jones.

    • The Chargers are fortunate they open the season against the Panthers. Their defense won't have to contend with Pro Bowl receiver Steve Smith after the Panthers suspended him for the first two games for a training-camp fight.

    • Inside linebacker Anthony Waters could return Monday after his recent knee surgery. The team was hoping Waters could compete for some significant playing time.

    • Running back LaDainian Tomlinson has shaved his head and is donning a beard. He also has been practicing with a headband, paying tribute to his idol, Walter Payton.

    Quote To Note:" "  "I know he is making progress and he is on schedule. Every day he's doing a little bit more, getting better. Our plan is to have him ready for the opening game and right now he is on schedule. Unless there is a setback, that would be my expectations."-Coach Norv Turner, on Antonio Gates returning from his toe injury.

    Strategy And Personnel

    • DT Jamal Williams, entering his 11th season, has returned to team drills after sitting out the first week of camp to rest his knees.

    • QB Philip Rivers, and the coaches, seem to think he has more arm strength this camp.

    • ILB Stephen Cooper is getting most of the first-team snaps, although he will miss the first four games. As the team gets closer to the season opener and game-planning specifically for the Panthers, Derek Smith will see more action.

    • K Nate Kaeding was on his game when the Chargers practiced at Qualcomm Stadium on Saturday. He converted all six of his field-goal attempts, including a long of 55 yards.

    • WR Vincent Jackson looks like he is building on last year's fast finish, catching nearly every ball thrown his way.

    Battle Of The Week:" "  Cory Withrow vs. Jeremy Newberry for the expected starting C job-Starter Nick Hardwick remains out after offseason foot surgery and could miss the season's first month. The team is looking at Withrow and Newberry to carry the load the first month. Withrow took over for Hardwick for four games last year, and was OK. Newberry was brought in as a free agent and seems to have the upper hand in this competition. Unless Newberry falters, he should win the job.

    Other Battle Fronts:" "  Darren Sproles vs. Antonio Cromartie vs. Mark Jones as the PR-Sproles is holding off Cromartie and Jones in his bid to keep his return job. Cromartie would probably be looked at more intently, but the team is hesitant to overwork their Pro Bowl cornerback. Jones is decent, but seems to be more of a fallback plan for the Chargers. - Malcom Floyd vs. Craig Davis for No. 3 WR spot-Floyd's time with the Chargers has reached a critical point, where he needs to stay healthy and productive. The Chargers are hoping Davis, a first-round pick last year, can show more consistency. To date Floyd has the edge, but he had to miss time late last week with a minor leg injury. It's imperative Floyd prove that he can stay on the field.

    Player Of The Week:" "  RB Darren Sproles-After being on the roster bubble last camp, the slightly built Sproles continues to impress with the quickness that he is hitting the hole, then shifting into another gear in space. His best play of the week was in Saturday's practice at Qualcomm Stadium when the 5-foot-6 Sproles raced some 90 yards on a punt return for a touchdown. "Darren proved to me in the last seven or eight games (last season) that he can be a guy that can have an impact on the game and can have an impact on every game," Turner said. "That's our job as coaches to do that. You give him the opportunity and it's not going to happen every week but he certainly is a guy that can change games."

    Injury Report:

    • TE Antonio Gates (toe) is running with the trainer in drills, but still appears to be weeks away from practicing.

    • C Nick Hardwick (foot) could miss the season's first month.

    • RB Andrew Pinnock (knee) has yet to practice and it's a mystery when he might play in an exhibition game.

    • LB Anthony Waters (knee) might be back as soon as Monday.
     

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