Charger Notebook : Mistakes No Concern on First Day of Camp

Times Staff Writer

Despite three fumbles and two offsides penalties on the first seven plays, Charger Coach Al Saunders said he thought Thursday's first practice of training camp was "outstanding."

"We threw a lot at the offense at once," Saunders said of the fumbles. "You expect those kinds of things on the first day."

The Chargers had a brief scare when starting quarterback Mark Malone took a helmet to the side of the head while trying to recover one of the fumbles.

"He's all right," Saunders said. "He was just being aggressive. He's gonna get a few more helmets in the side before the season's over."

The Chargers say they will look at Roy Bennett as a cornerback despite Bennett's apparent lack of speed.

Bennett led the Canadian Football League with 13 interceptions last year while playing for Winnipeg. And one former CFL coach thinks he will be better this season than even the Chargers expect.

"Too many NFL coaches get hung up in the 40-yard-dash time. Yet all (Bennett) does is go cover good," says Don Matthews, who coached the British Columbia Lions last year but has since been fired.

Matthews was set to coach the San Diego Thunder this spring in the World Indoor Football League until that league put off business operations until next year.

Matthews says Bennett ran 40 yards in 4.65 seconds--relatively slow for cornerbacks--when tested by Charger coaches. "But he hadn't run since the end of the season. By the time he was in shape, he was running 4.52 or 4.51. I mean, he's got the speed."

Cincinnati Bengal Coach Sam Wyche made news recently with a new roommate policy during training camp. Wyche has decided, in an effort to promote team unity, that black players will room with white players and offensive players will room with defensive players.

"My dad was doing that 20 years ago," said Bruce Allen, son of former Ram Coach George Allen and agent for Charger wide receiver Anthony Miller.

Saunders says he has "never even looked" at the racial breakdown in the Chargers' room assignments.

Saunders said the Chargers made an effort to promote team unity last year when they required the players to eat dinner together the night before games. Before that, the players received a per-diem food allowance but didn't have to eat with teammates.

Regarding mixing players by offense or defense or race on the road, Saunders said: "I don't think that's something we've ever needed to focus on."

Charger Notes

The Chargers hadn't even practiced Thursday before two players left camp. They were Joe Goebel, a center from UCLA, and Rusty Guilbeau, a former Jet linebacker. "Both felt football was not in their future," Saunders said. Two other players were not cleared by doctors to practice--linebacker Steve Busick (knee) and wide receiver Eugene Goodlow (thigh). Outside linebacker Stacy Price missed practice because of root canal surgery.

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