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Johnny Rep was here

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Sep 5, 2008.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006
    Sep 05, 2008

    Sunday can’t come fast enough for Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.

    After undergoing offseason knee surgery, Rivers didn’t have much of a vacation this spring. He devoted his time to getting healthy enough to lead the Chargers in their quest for a third-consecutive AFC West title.

    “It was weird,” Rivers said. “It was somewhat of a long offseason just because of what I was dealing with, but it seemed like it went by kind of fast because there was so much going on, so much football and rehab. My mindset was, ‘Let’s get back out there.’”

    Rivers’ second season as an NFL starter was much different than that of his first. After watching from the sideline his first two professional seasons, he was handed the reins in 2006 and led the Chargers to a 14-2 season that delivered few bumps in the road. While most young quarterbacks learn from their disappointments, Rivers really didn’t have any early in his career.

    “I had a false sense of what the position entailed going 14-2,” Rivers said. “Really every mistake I made was swept under the rug because it was my first year starting and we were winning.”

    All that changed during the first half of last fall when the Chargers were 1-3 after the first month and 5-5 heading into late November. He had a chance to learn from days like Week 3 in Green Bay when a 306-yard, three-touchdown performance were overshadowed by a fourth-quarter interception and a slight misfire that could have allowed the Chargers to run out the clock and preserve a win.

    He went through a similar situation in Jacksonville where a 309-yard day went for naught because of a pair of interceptions.

    “Last year I got a taste of making some poor plays and some poor decisions and it cost us,” Rivers said. “The team struggling and having to continue to lead and help us fight through that adversity, I think it made me tougher and made me a better player. I think for the most part it showed down the stretch and hopefully it can carry over into my play this year.”

    The Bolts’ starting signal caller was playing the best football of his young career during the final month of the regular season and the playoffs. The Chargers won their final six games of the regular season, during which Rivers threw 10 touchdown passes and only three interceptions.

    His play helped the Chargers rebound from a difficult start and earn their second-straight division title. He then delivered a 292-yard passing performance against the Titans to give the Bolts their first playoff win in 13 years. A week later he tossed three touchdowns at Indianapolis to upset the defending Super Bowl champions.

    Although it wasn’t public knowledge at the time, Rivers played with a torn ACL in his left knee a week later in the AFC Championship Game. His grittiness caused those outside the organization to take note of Rivers’ heart and toughness, but inside Chargers Park it only affirmed what his teammates already knew.

    “The respect hasn’t changed,” tight end Antonio Gates said. “Throughout his whole time here, he’s ultimately gained the respect of his peers by the way he’s carried himself, by the way he’s approached the game and the way he communicates.

    “I think the respect from outside of this organization has grown. To see him battle through the ACL and everything, the outside perception has changed. As far as us, we knew what he was capable of doing and believed in him since day one. Finally he was able to prove it to the outsiders.”

    Rivers also hopes to prove that his play down the stretch in the playoffs is the norm. His respect level nationally has grown not only because he played through the injury but also because of how he’s bounced back this offseason.

    Earlier this week, Chargers President Dean Spanos just smiled and shook his head when he was asked if he was surprised by Rivers’ strong recovery from the knee injury.

    “No, he’s that type of guy,” Spanos said. “He’s the type of guy that always defies the odds. He’ll prove you wrong every time. He had the surgery and he was committed and very aggressive in his rehab. The result is that he’s out there playing right now.”

    Rivers’ enters the 2008 season with a 25-7 regular-season record as a starter. It’s the only statistic he puts much stock in, and it’s the only one he has in mind as he gets ready to play each week.

    “As a quarterback, the main thing I’ve always focused on as I play and approach every day is to do all I can do to help us win,” Rivers said. “I’ve always said that could be a throw away, it could be taking a sack. I’ve always said that if that means throwing it five times, complete all five of them and hand it off. I just want to win.”
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