Can you talk about the San Diego defense?
“They make a lot of plays. You turn on last week’s game against Kansas City where they get five turnovers in the first half and you say, man they’re just a bunch of ball hawks. They’re getting their helmet on the ball in the run game so balls are popping out everywhere and then obviously being disruptive in the pass game. They have some really good players there in the secondary and do a great job of getting pressure on the quarterback through their pressure schemes and then sometimes with just their base four-man rush in sub nickel situations, pass situations. (They’re) really a very sound defense that does a lot of good things.”
Can you talk about how you compartmentalize the individual achievement you’re going for on Sunday night to the team aspect?
“I very much try to compartmentalize it. I think about doing my job and doing whatever it takes to just win and typically that other stuff just takes care of itself.”
Do you talk about the award and how significant it would mean to you?
“No, I have being that we tied it last week and I got asked about it quite a bit. But now that the work week has begun, I’ve really tried to leave it out there and obviously hope that we accomplish it. I think it’s tremendous, but at the same time I need to focus on my job and whatever it takes to help us win, and then if we break the record in the process then that’s great.”
Have you met Joe Unitas before and can you talk about the letter he sent you?
“I have not met him, but I did see the letter obviously yesterday. I saw it posted online and then he actually sent it to me here at the facility. I actually responded back to him by email today. I’ve never met him in person. I look forward to meeting him. Obviously, it’s a very classy move. (It’s) something he certainly didn’t have to do, but I think not only that but what he said in the letter, talking about what his father stood for and would’ve cared about, and the fact that a lot of the off the field stuff is even more important than the on the field accomplishments. So that was a very nice thing for him to do.”
The rules back then and now are very different. How do you think you would’ve played in the 1950s era?
“What’s interesting is you watch guys like Johnny U and some of the highlight films, and watching the way he threw the ball during that era was pretty unbelievable. He really revolutionized the game and the quarterback position. I always like looking at the pictures, kind of like the posed pictures from those days, so I always imagine doing one of those poses. Certainly his accomplishments speak for themselves and (those of) his Baltimore Colts teams. That was the heyday and what helped really kind of pave the way for what we have now.”
You’ve had a lot more attempts than he did, so you’ve had more opportunities.
“Right, it just goes to show how good he was.”
Aaron Kromer said something about you guys having your climbing shoes on to climb this mountain. As a leader of this team, what do you tell your team to keep them upbeat and not let them get too down?
“I think you always have to stay encouraging and certainly positive. This isn’t where we wanted to be. The bottom line is did you win or lose, and we lost. We’re 0-4. So you have to face reality a little bit, but when you go through times like this, you also have to find the positive and find the things you can build on. We have gotten better each week, there’s no doubt about it, in so many ways. Unfortunately, in a few of these games it’s been just a matter of finishing. We have to finish the game the way that we know how, the way that we’ve done many times in the past. We’ve had our moments throughout the course of the game. It’s never going to be perfect, but when you have the opportunities to win it, you have to win it.”
Do you think the NFL intended for you to play against your former team with the chance to break the record?
“Jim Henderson brought that up during the press conference after the game. Honestly, that was the first time I had even thought about it, and right after he said it I walked out of the room and said, ‘There’s no doubt. That’s not a coincidence.’ The NFL are not dummies. They know what they’re doing.”
Would it be easier to enjoy if you guys were 4-0 right now?
“Yes, obviously if our record were a little bit better. It doesn’t change the significance of the record, but hopefully we can use it as a launch point, a platform for the rest of our season.”
Can you talk about Marques Colston? Do you think he’s back to one hundred percent?
“Yes, you could tell his foot was bothering him there in the first few games really and towards the end of camp. To have him start to become healthy again, I know for him, he’s such a tough guy and he doesn’t want to let anybody down so he’s going to battle through, but I know he was frustrated. And now that he’s back to one hundred percent, you can see it and you can feel his confidence level and obviously what he means to this offense.”
Can you talk about your relationship with Philip Rivers and your time with the Chargers when they first drafted him?”
“You know what’s funny is I like Philip a lot as a person, as a quarterback, as a family guy, off the field, everything. It’s interesting because when he got drafted to the Chargers with the fourth pick of the 2004 Draft, really it was – hey, they’re drafting him to be the quarterback of the future to take my job. I think people wanted us to be at odds. They wanted us to be adversaries. They wanted this to be a contentious relationship, and it wasn’t. Listen, we were both competitive people. We both wanted to play, we both wanted to be the guy, but we had a good quarterback room during that time. Doug Flutie was with us and Cleo Lemon was the other quarterback. The point being is that we all helped one another, and yes it was competitive, but it wasn’t adversarial at all. Obviously, my departure coming here, we do stay in touch. I see him at least a couple of times during the offseason. I’ve been with him at the Pro Bowl the last two times. I’ve got a great relationship with Philip. We’ll even talk during the season at times, just similar opponents. We’ve done that before just kind of comparing notes. Despite what people might have tried to make it, it wasn’t that way.”
From a competitive standpoint, do you think Rivers is trying to match how you do on Sunday?
“You can’t just say it’s any other game. For me, going up against my old team and it’s not that there’s any hard feelings or ill-will, there’s not at all, but that’s the team I was with for five years. I think another thing is that you know you’re going up against another top-tier quarterback. Just like last week, you know that you’re going up against Aaron Rodgers and that offense. You know what they’re capable of, so you know that you just have to bring your absolute best, not to say you’re not trying to do that every week, but you’re competitive.”
Darren Sproles had a crucial drop on Sunday. Have you had any conversations with him since then and how did he look at practice today?
“He was great today. Darren Sproles is one of the quieter guys, but a fiery competitor. I know that play upset him. He came to me and said that’s not going to happen again. Even after practice, just for the sake of getting it out of our minds, we went out and ran the same play a couple of times in a row and completed it like we always do. It just says a lot about him and his mindset. He’s a go-to guy in all situations, especially critical situations. It doesn’t change my opinion about him one bit, but just to you know about the type of guy he is, he cares a lot and he wants to be that guy and he is that guy.”
A lot of guys on this team were on the 2007 team that started 0-4. Do you guys talk about that season and can you talk about what it was like going through that season?
“Yes, it’s been mentioned that we’ve been in this situation before. We started off 0-4 and then we rattled off four in a row. There’s no doubt that we can do that. Listen, we’ve been in situations here where we’ve won 13 in a row, nine in a row, ten in a row. We can get on a roll. We can get on a streak and in order to get on a streak you have to win the first one. So that’s what we’re focused on doing, especially before we go into the bye and get healthier, rejuvenated and ready to roll. But it’s all about Sunday night.”
Since you’ll be playing in front of a national audience this Sunday, how important is it to stay calm and not be so amped up for this contest?
“I think the offseason talk for us is in the past. It’s old news. Obviously we’re still current during this season, but it’s not something we even think about. We think about our preparation and trying to get that first win, trying to get a little better each week and we want that to be this week.”
Can you take us back to your first days with Antonio Gates and developing what kind of weapon he could be and how you were able to translate that into your experience with Jimmy Graham?
“There’s no doubt I made those two guys and their successes, no I’m just kidding. I remember when (Antonio Gates) came in in 2003 and had played four years of basketball at Kent State, hadn’t played football literally in four or five years. Putting his hand in the ground at the tight end position was foreign to him. I remember when he first got there as an undrafted free agent, he was an experiment, I was like this guy will never make the team. I believe he started off on (the) practice squad, midway through the season we had a bunch of injuries at tight end and he ends up starting, and the light bulb came on and you were just like wow. I see a lot of similarities between him and Jimmy in just how much basketball can help them in regards to the body control and body position and suddenness and going up and attacking the ball, just like you would in the paint in basketball. But more so than that, I think where most basketball players have a tough time is, at the tight end position you have to be one of the best athletes on the field because you’re required to do so much. You have to be tough because you’re run blocking, pass blocking, you’re getting jammed off the ball, you’re catching balls over the middle while people are trying to take your head off all the time. With those two guys, their ability to split out and do so many things with them, they’re both so versatile, so I see a lot of similarities between the two of them. I think basketball and their background certainly help, but I think more so than anything is they’re both extremely smart, they’re both great competitors, they’re both tough guys and that’s why they’ve been so successful.”
What made you decide to give that speech last week and will you give another one this week?
“I only do it when I feel like it’s necessary. I’d say there are a lot of occasions where it’s a word here, it’s a phrase here, it’s just a little bit there maybe after practice during the break down, in the meeting, in the locker room or the night before a game. There are plenty of occasions where, and it’s not just me – there are leaders on this team that stand up and might want to say something if they feel it needs to be said – we’ve got guys that aren’t afraid to do that. It’s not like we’re talking just to talk. It’s not fake-hype. We say what needs to be said. We know what we need to do, we know where we faltered and we know where we need to improve. The bottom line is, did you get the job done or did you not, and we haven’t thus far but we’re going to get the job done.”
Why do you think the friendly competition was the way you described it earlier between you and Philip Rivers and it wasn’t a bad relationship?
“I think we have similar personalities in a lot of ways, in the way we approach the game, our competitiveness, our work ethic, our approach. I think it didn’t need to be hostile. I’d say our personalities are similar in that way and that’s why we got along and that’s why we get along.”
Philip Rivers described his relationship with you as trying to take it to another level where you were both rooting for each other to do well.
“I’ll say this for example with Chase Daniel. If Chase Daniel’s not trying to take my job, then he’s not doing his job. But does that mean I’m not going to encourage him and try to help him be the best that he can be? You can bet we compete at everything. I would say that was maybe a little bit different time with Philip because I had only started two years. I had been benched a couple of times the year before. We were really in a position where they had drafted him to take my job. My personality is always worry about the things that I can control, try to be the best I can be. Yes, I’m competing against him, but in reality I’m really competing against myself. Be encouraging to him, high-five him, and in the end if he has to come in and help us win a game, he’s on my team. I want us to win. So I think that was my mentality.”
How has the running game affected this offense and what do you feel the problems have been?
“You can probably say opportunities. We’ve thrown it a lot. At times with the run game, it was a result of being down by a lot in the second half and trying to play catch up, so then you’re getting into a two-minute offense and it’s going to be exclusively passing and not much running. Maybe abandoning it a little bit soon. I think it’s been a combination of a little bit of everything. (It’s) a lack of execution at times. You want to feel confident that you’re going to dial those plays up and you’re going to get the yardage that you need to sustain drives and be a threat. The run game, just like pass protection and everything else, it takes all 11 guys. Part of my job is getting us in the best run looks as possible, identifying the right guys, receivers blocking downfield, linemen obviously doing their jobs, backs hitting the right hole, making the right cut. So we’re all responsible for maybe the deficiencies at times in regards to the run game. I would say we had a really good performance against Carolina with our run game and some lackluster performances in the other three games, and like I said, due to a lot of factors. I think the biggest thing is just trusting it, doing it and then obviously being successful enough in the pass game as well that you’re in a position where you feel like you can dial up both and you’re not trying to play catch up.”
Is the confidence there with the running backs?
“Yes, because we’ve got great backs, we’ve got a great scheme, and we’ve got a great offensive line. So we have all the pieces there. Now it’s just a matter of execution and commitment.”Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times