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Pro Bowl preparations underway

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Feb 8, 2006.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a target="_blank" href="http://www.chargers.com/news/headline_detail.cfm?news_key=2539">Chargers.com</a>

    By Scott Yoffe

    HONOLULU - Preparations for the 2006 Pro Bowl officially got underway today when both the AFC and NFC squads took to the Lagoon Field at the J.W. Marriott Ihilani Resort in Kapolei, Hawaii for their first practices of the week.

    The Chargers are among the NFL's most represented teams at this year's all-star contest with six Bolts representing the City of San Diego. Only Indianapolis and Seattle, both of whom sent seven players to Hawaii, have more players represented than the Chargers. You have to go back to the 1982 season to find the last time the Chargers had this many players selected to the Pro Bowl, as that season seven were selected to play in the league's all-star game.

    LaDainian Tomlinson is back for his third-career Pro Bowl and second in a row. There's no doubt that this year's contest is a little more special since he's joined by fullback Lorenzo Neal, the man who's paved the way for Tomlinson's last three 1,000-yard seasons.

    "It's great, especially because Lo (Lorenzo) has been so deserving for a lot of years and he hasn't made it (since '02)," said Tomlinson. "For him to come back is great and I'm happy that he's here blocking for me."

    Tomlinson is all smiles when he's asked about looking around the Lagoon Field and seeing five of his teammates out there running around with him. After enduring four and five-win seasons early in his career, LT was asked whether he ever thought there'd be a day when six Chargers would all be selected to the Pro Bowl squad. He said he never really gave it much thought, but that he was glad that he and his teammates were being recognized for their accomplishments on the field.

    Neal, who just finished his 13th season, is often regarded as the best fullback in the National Football League, but rarely has the honor of being selected to the Pro Bowl accompanied those compliments. He's making just his second visit to Hawaii for this week's all-star game and the level of appreciation for being here has only gone up since three years have passed since he was last voted in.

    "Oh yeah, you appreciate it," explained Neal. "I think whether it's your first time, second time or third time, you still appreciate it, knowing that you've been selected as being the best at your position, especially as a fullback because they only bring one. It's that much harder and it means that much more to me so I just keep working. I'm very appreciative."

    Neal knows that he won't play forever and he's been fortunate to play 13 years at such a high level at one of the NFL's most physically demanding positions. He also knows that being at the Pro Bowl is more than just being at another football game and the experience transcends the game itself.

    "You're over here with a lot of guys and you have a good time," said Neal. "It's just really fun. You just meet guys and get to see them outside of football. The relationships and the friendships you build are great."

    Joining Tomlinson and Neal at the Pro Bowl are tight end Antonio Gates, defensive tackle Jamal Williams, linebacker Shawne Merriman and safety Hanik Milligan. All of the players admitted to being a little bit rusty after the five week layoff since the season ended, but it didn't take long for the rust to wear off.

    "I felt a little rusty at first but you can only warm up in this great weather out here so once I got out and ran around a little bit I felt comfortable again," said Merriman.

    Milligan, who finished the season as the Bolts' team leader with 21 special teams tackles, is the first-ever Charger to be selected as a special teams performer. He echoed Merriman's sentiments about being a bit rusty, but the excitement of being at his first Pro Bowl helped polish off of some of the rust.

    "It felt good to be playing football again, running around and having fun," said Milligan. "That's the greatest thing about it, you know it's fun. What else could be better? You're in Hawaii having fun and playing football. This could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so you've got to take advantage of it."

    Merriman, Williams and Milligan are all first-time Pro Bowlers and as such, they will all be subject to a little bit of hazing this week, especially from the veteran players. One of the customs that goes along with being a first-time Pro Bowler is that you end up picking up a lot of tabs. Williams is extremely cautious about giving out his room number so that nobody can charge any tabs to his room. Merriman however has got a double-dose. Not only is he appearing in his first Pro Bowl, but he's also the only rookie on the AFC squad. He decided that he would meet the challenge head on.

    "I had to pay for everybody's everything yesterday," explained Merriman with a big smile on his face. "I had to pay for everybody's meal, I mean everything. Yesterday was my day. I got the rookie thing out of the way and the first time Pro Bowl thing out of the way and now I'm just glad to move on with it."

    Being the only rookie on the squad is something that was not lost on Merriman. He's the Chargers' first-ever rookie linebacker to earn a Pro Bowl selection and he's the first rookie outside linebacker to be voted to a Pro Bowl since Kansas City's Derrick Thomas in 1989. He has tremendous respect for the veteran players around him.

    "A lot of these guys have been in the league for years and I'm a rookie in my first Pro Bowl," he explained. "It's definitely a big accomplishment for me and to be out here with the rest of these guys who I looked up to for years is a great thing."

    News and Notes

    Denver Broncos Head Coach Mike Shanahan is the head coach for the AFC squad and Carolina Panthers Head Coach John Fox is coaching the NFC squad."  Both coaches have their entire coaching staffs working with them in Hawaii."  The only benefit of being the losing coaching staff in the AFC and NFC Championship Games is the opportunity to come to Hawaii and coach at the Pro Bowl."  There is a reunion of sorts for Gates this week as he is being coached by Broncos tight ends coach Tim Brewster."  Brewster was the Chargers' tight ends coach during Gates' first two seasons (2003-04) in San Diego."  Both teams went through 45-minute practices today at the Ihilani Resort."  Today the AFC practiced first from 9:00-9:45 a.m. and then the NFC took the field from 10:00-10:45 a.m."  Tomorrow they will switch with the NFC taking the field for the early session."  After today's practice the players took part in several different activities."  Tomlinson and Neal brought their golf clubs to Hawaii and headed out to the Ko Olina Golf Course after practice for an 11:30 a.m. tee time."  Williams, Milligan and Merriman all were planning to make their way into the city to tour around the Waikiki Beach area.

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