Darren had a crucial drop and fumble Sunday. Having played with him, how do you think he would take something like that?
“He’s going to bounce back huge. He’s going to bounce back. One thing about Darren, is he cares as much or more than anybody in that locker room. He’s so dependable. Anytime he was to have a negative play when he was here, which is very rare and I’m sure it has been there, he’s the kind of guy that’s on to the next play. As strong as tough as he is physically, he is the same way mentally.”
How much has Robert Meachem grown in the Chargers offense and how has your on-field relationship with him grown?
“He’s been great. He’s been in that system in New Orleans for several years. There are some similarities, there are certainly some differences, both with the play-calling and scheme wise. He’s been great. We’re still growing, both him and I. I think our whole offensive unit is yet to find exactly not who we are, but to get all the way in synch. I think the good thing about that has been to be able to get to 3-1 without completely rolling offensively. But Robert’s been good. He hasn’t had a ton of ball. He didn’t have any this week. But that’s kind of the way it goes here. Even in years past, there’s game where a receiver doesn’t catch a ball or catches one ball, and the next week he catches six or seven and it kind of goes in cycles. One thing was pretty clear when he got here with Eddie Royal and the guys we’ve added is (that he’s) very unselfish. He’s a super team guy and he’s fit right in very well.”
Is it surprising at all that you have an offense like you do in San Diego and Drew Brees has one as potent in New Orleans, but that you go from one season of a lot of success to one just like Drew has said with a different identity? Is that a surprise, even when you have the same guys returning to the team?
“We’ve had quite a bit of new guys here, other than (Antonio) Gates and (Malcolm) Floyd and (Randy) McMichael, but you think about Royal and Meachem and Le’Ron McClain, Jackie Battle, Ronnie Brown, Dante Rosario. Those are all guys in their first year here. But, no, when you look at it as you did this morning, the Saints could be 4-0, there’s such a fine line between winning and losing in this league and it’s a week to week deal. No season’s ever the same and no game’s ever the same. We couldn’t score a touchown against Atlanta. We turned it over four times and we turn it over once (at Kansas City). Obvioulsy the defense got us a lot of turnovers, six turnovers we were able to get. Then we were able to score 37 points. We had defensive touchdonws. That’s the first question we got. How could you not score in Atlanta, but score in Kansas City and do all that. It’s week to week. It’s constantly trying to execute your formula on every play. It’s going to be a super challenge in that dome on Sunday night. We’re going to have to be at our best.”
We know Antonio Gates’ background. Jimmy Graham played basketball primarily and only a year of football. Is it neat to see how people have gone the Antonio Gates mold, grown and how that tight end position has become a major weapon in the NFL?
“Yes, it certainly changed. I think Gates is certainly one of the guys if not the guy who had a hand in that. You see different guys trying to take that path who were primarily basketball (players) and tried to make the move to football and I think probably since Gates, there have been a handful who have tried that route. Jimmy Graham is probably the one that’s really obviously done a heck of a job and become a big time player in this league. It’s amazing to see, but you really see how the basketball benefits them and benefited them in this game at that position from a route-running standpoint, body position and I know I’ve certainly thrown Gates a lot of high balls he’s gone up and gotten. I’ve seen Drew do the same to Graham. I’ve seen him go up and get a bunch of balls and obviously his body position and ability to go up and do that gives us confidence to throw those types of balls that otherwise you might now throw.”
Not all the time do we see guys have a fondness for each other when teammates split up that you and Drew have for each other. What is it about the working relationship that you guys had and what allowed you guys to have a good relationship despite the direct competition?
“I think first off, it was by neither of ours choice that we ended up right here at the points we did in our careers. We’re both competitive, but at the same time, very respectful of one another. There’s no doubt we were going to compete like crazy and that I wanted to be the starter my rookie year and there was no doubt in his mind where he said he wasn’t letting me have it. But at the same time, I was one of the first to high-five him after a touchdown pass those first two years. I pulled for him and I tried to help him as much as I could those first two years and I’d like to think I helped him in some ways, whether it was preparation or something on tape and certainly he was helpful to me those two years and then as we’ve gone our separate ways…We don’t talk a ton or keep up a whole lot. Obviously he has a young family. I have a young family of six little ones. He’s out here some in the offseason. It’s not that we hang out a bunch. But we certainly keep up. I always watch them when they’re playing when I get the chance. He seems to do the same. When you have a solid guy, a good guy and a true pro in the way he plays, it makes it easy to get along and pull for a guy.”