By Cameron Buford, Whatsgoodinsports.com
This time of year, open fields all across America have been aerated and football players and fans can smell the fresh-cut grass in the air signifying football season is near. The field at the Jack Hammett Sports Complex, in Costa Mesa, CA., is no different. With the Stadium seating recently erected and practice fields freshly painted, the Los Angeles Chargers training camp was set to begin last week, I will share with you some of the players’ and coaches’ thoughts in addition to my biggest takeaways from the past week at Chargers Training Camp.
Since taking over the Head Coaching role with these Los Angeles Chargers, Coach Staley has discussed implementing a culture based on relationships and teachings. From experience, I understand a lead at any level will have thoughts that may keep them up at night and I wanted to ask Staley to share those thoughts, yet he cleverly turned the question and discussed what wake him up, “Not much. I sleep really well. I know how hard we prepare. It’s not what keeps you up at night, it’s what wakes you up early. That’s how I look at it. We put in a lot of work from January to June, but the NFL kind of season starts now when you put helmets and shoulder pads on and it’s training camp when games are upon you. We’re all excited to play football together and compete. What makes it feel real is when you come into the parking lot and you see a bunch of kids getting ready to watch training camp and you see fans in the stands wearing our guys’ jerseys and our colors. This game is a lot more special with fans and with you guys here. It’s such a different atmosphere. It feels so much more like football. I’m so thankful for it.”
As fans were allowed to attend practice at Jack Hammett Sports Complex, this would be Justin Herbert’s first time practicing or playing in front of friendly fans since his days at the University of Oregon. So, after their initial practice, Herbert ran over to signed fans t-shirts, hats, jerseys, and other memorabilia for the fans in attendance. He then went to down the line to high-fiving dozens of others fans and would later say after practice for not understanding the NFL Protocols, which states he should remain 10 yards from fans and media, “I was not aware. I just wanted to thank them for coming out. I’ll make sure to wash my hands and keep my distance next time, so I apologize.”
Where injuries have hampered the Chargers in recent years, specifically Derwin James, he made it clear that he is healthy and ready to play football this season and will not let the past impact his game moving forward. Here is what he said when the idea was brought up after their initial, “I play football. I’m here to play football. When you play this game slowly, it costs you, and that’s when you get hurt. So you know, I’m still being me, I’m still Derwin James, man.”
Though there will be some changes to this defense and his position, in particular, Joey Bosa points out that, “I really didn’t stand up much in college, first and second down I’ll need to stand up and see the formation. But, I’m comfortable, I trained a lot in the off-season and I’m going to work different variations of it and see what I like best. But when it’s time to make money, I’m going to have my hand in the dirt and be flying off the ball.” This last line should have any and all Chargers fans confident that Joey Bosa is feeling good and ready to wreak havoc on opposing offenses regardless of what gets called on from the sidelines.
A couple of weeks ago, I interviewed former San Diego Chargers, Rookie of the Year Shawne Merriman and asked him why people around the league underestimate the All-Pro Wide Receiver Keenan Allen’s
game. Merriman compared Allen’s game to art, an Andy Warhol painting specifically. I was curious to hear how Keenan would respond to the comparison and who he would compare himself to when asked Keenan said, “Picasso, the best of the best, Michelangelo; them boys.” I also asked him about the deep receiving corps they have and how their communication is in the locker room, “I always enjoy that. We all learn from each other. We always communicate about the game. They tell what they see, what I see, what I like to look at, what leverages I like to play with, and what to attack as far as what we’re seeing and playing against, It’s just about helping each other and communicating.”
One of the players that I am excited to see on the field this season is their second-year linebacker and former Oklahoma Sooner Kenneth Murray Jr.. Because I thought the Chargers lacked a run stuffer and a hitter the past few seasons, I am confident Kenneth Murray Jr can be that player for them moving forward. So, I got goosebump when he told us the message former Chargers Linebacker Shawne Merriman gave him, “’ just to be yourself; because that will make everything easier.’” Merriman continued to say, “you go out there and fly around and putting his pads on some people, making plays.” When asked how his message would be received, by his fellow defenders Murray Jr., said, “when you hit somebody, I want peoples to feel me. That’s the biggest thing. I want my teammates to feel me. I want them to be able to feel my passion. I want them to be able to feel my passion. I want them to feel my anger when you hit somebody.”
Complementing Kenneth Murray Jr, on defense will be Pro Bowl players Derwin James and Joey Bosa. 2011 Super Bowl Champion Linval Joseph says about the new environment Head Coach Brandon Staley has created, “I mean, to be honest with you, he’s probably one of the best coaches I’ve had in 12 years. He’s a family man. He loves football. He wants the best for his players and wants you to be an overall good person. I feel like it’s more than just football with him. I feel like it’s a family.” I followed up with Linval to clarify what he thoughts makes Coach Staley the best Head Coach he’d played for, and he responded by saying, “I feel like since he got here and over the whole OTAs have happened, it’s brought us closer together. When we came together for OTAs, it showed us how much he cares on and off the field. Once again, he is a little bit younger. He’s 38-years old, he has a lot of energy. He loves his job. He loves his family. I feel like this was a good decision to bring him in.”
Coach Staley has been working since he took the Head Coaching role in January!. This new standard Staley has implemented has been received well by the players, which should bold well for their performance in the coming season. We get to see how this plays out when they have their open practice at SoFi Stadium, in front of fans at 3:00 pm on Sunday, August 8th fans can learn how to attend this open practice by visiting www.chargers.com/camp. Let me know your initial thoughts on these new-look Chargers and your share expectations by reaching out to me on Twitter @whatsgoodnsport or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I encourage you to forward any suggestions on what topics or angles about this new version of the Los Angeles Chargers you would like to see discussed this season.
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