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For Joiner, Career Had Thrills and a Regret : He Recalls Records, but Missed Super Bowl

Times Staff Writer

Some passing thoughts of Charlie Joiner’s playing career came to his mind when he switched from Charger receiver to receivers coach Monday.

Nothing stood out more than when the Chargers beat the Denver Broncos in the final 1979 regular-season game, 17-7, earning their first divisional title in 14 years.

Secondary were his National Football League records for most career receptions (750) and receiving yardage (12,146).

One unfortunate thought also came to mind--that Joiner never participated in a Super Bowl in 18 playing seasons.

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“The ultimate goal for all football players is to play in the Super Bowl,” Joiner said. “When you know you gave it your best shot, you have to move on. You can’t regret not making (the Super Bowl) if you gave it your best. You try to reach it as a player. You try to reach it as a coach.”

As a player, Joiner came closest when the Chargers lost American Football Conference championship games to the Oakland Raiders in 1981 and the Cincinnati Bengals in 1982. Those were his most disappointing memories.

But Joiner will long be remembered for his inspirational performance in the 1979 Denver game. Twice he returned to the field bandaged after being forced to the dressing room with injuries.

“I kind of questioned my own sanity that night,” Joiner said. “We were in bad shape. We only had three receivers. J. J. (John Jefferson) didn’t play and John Floyd was a rookie. It was me or nothing. I just came out and played as hard as I could. I’m just glad we won that ballgame.”

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Joiner, who was the last active American Football League player, gained numerous admirers for his work ethic. Though not among the NFL’s quickest or most gifted receivers, he was known for the tireless hours spent learning the intricacies of the passing game.

He became the all-time leading receiver on Nov. 25, 1984, in Pittsburgh and the yardage leader on Oct. 6, 1986, in Seattle.

Joiner said he won’t be disappointed if Seattle’s Steve Largent breaks his records.

“He’s a great guy and a great receiver,” Joiner said. “He has been a very steady performer. He deserves it as much as anyone. I’m just glad I was No. 1.”

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In retrospect, Joiner was thankful he was able to play 18 years. He attributed the endurance to off-season preparation and lack of major injuries.

“The hardest decision was playing another year last year,” Joiner said. “I just thought we had an excellent opportunity to get to the playoffs. It didn’t work out. Everything in life isn’t perfect.”

And 39 isn’t a perfect age for wide receivers.

“I prepared myself to quit after this year,” Joiner said. “I think my wife (Dianne) is in total agreement. I’m 39, and she thinks the injury factor is getting much higher. I agree.

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“I’m a little too old for a wide receiver to be playing football. A lineman or quarterback could do it.”

Now comes the transition period, as Joiner joins management. He must coach the players who were his peers the past season.

Coach Al Saunders said it’s not an easy adjustment, but he thinks that Joiner will make a smooth transition.

“By virtue of being the most inspirational player on this team the last seven or so years, that’s a testimony to Charlie,” Saunders said. “It will be difficult for him not being able to perform the plays that he’ll want someone else to do. If any of the guys emulate his work habits and professional attitude, we’ll be much better off just for having Charlie here.”

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Saunders said he initiated talks with Joiner last year in regard to Joiner eventually becoming a coach. They discussed the topic again Friday through Sunday before Joiner decided to join the coaching staff.

“I asked Charlie what he felt he’d do,” Saunders said. “He said it was about time to look into other things. I said if you retire, I’d certainly like you as my receivers coach.”

So now Joiner must change his life style. No longer will he have six months off during the off-season. In addition, he has permanently moved his family from Houston to Rancho Bernardo.

Quarterback Dan Fouts thought the Chargers were wise in retaining Joiner.

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“I always felt he has a lot to offer,” Fouts said. “I always felt one of his greatest strengths was in the way he practiced and the example he set for all of us as football players. I know he’ll be able to get that across to us as football players.

“There are few guys you can count on in this world for anything. Especially in a game like football, you could always count on Charlie. I’m losing the greatest receiver I’ve ever worked with.”

Charger Notes

Coach Al Saunders said he is “not in a hurry” to fill the Chargers’ vacancies for running backs and special-teams coaches. Saunders said he wants to hire an “energetic and outgoing” running backs coach to complement the low-key offensive coaches the Chargers have. Saunders wants a defensive-oriented coach to run the special teams. According to Saunders, he will probably hire a running backs coach first.

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CHARLIE JOINER’S CAREER STATISTICS

Year Team No. Yards Ave. TD 1969 Houston 7 77 11.0 0 1970 Houston 28 416 14.9 3 1971 Houston 31 681 22.0 7 1972 Houston-Cincinnati 24 439 18.3 2 1973 Cincinnati 13 214 16.5 0 1974 Cincinnati 24 390 16.3 1 1975 Cincinnati 37 726 19.6 5 1976 San Diego 50 1,058 21.1 7 1977 San Diego 35 542 15.5 6 1978 San Diego 33 607 18.4 1 1979 San Diego 72 1,008 14.0 4 1980 San Diego 71 1,132 15.9 4 1981 San Diego 70 1,188 17.0 7 1982 San Diego 36 545 15.1 0 1983 San Diego 65 960 14.8 3 1984 San Diego 61 793 13.0 6 1985 San Diego 59 932 15.8 7 1986 San Diego 34 440 12.9 2 Totals 750 12,146 16.3 65


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