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Chargers and Tolliver Make Deal : Henning Says His Rookie Quarterback Will Need Study Time

The Chargers finally signed rookie quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver Sunday, and this is how crazy it is when you skip eight days of an NFL training camp in search of a better contract: Tolliver still didn’t know how much money he was getting after finishing his first practice as a Charger.

“No, and I don’t care,” Tolliver said. “It’s going to be at least average with what everyone else (drafted in the second round) got.”

Vic Vines, one of Tolliver’s representatives, said he knows of no better contract for a second-round pick. Vines and Joe Courrege struck a four-year deal with the Chargers that is believed to be worth between $1.2 million and $1.3 million.

By Sunday afternoon, Tolliver was on the field as the Charger veterans practiced after a scrimmage against the Rams.

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“I’m excited to be here,” Tolliver said. "(Not reporting) was really hard, especially when Coach (Dan) Henning said to get into camp. That was the hardest part. When your coach tells you to do something, you do it--like when your dad tells you to do something.”

And what made Tolliver feel even worse was a conversation he and Henning had in Lubbock, Tex. three weeks before the NFL draft.

“He came out to work me out, and we had a long talk,” Tolliver said. “I told him I had never seen much money and I didn’t need much to get by. I couldn’t envision holding out. But I made a liar out of myself. I looked the man right in the eye four months ago and told him I’d be in camp.”

But that changed when the Chargers made him a second-round pick.

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“At the time, I didn’t think I’d go as high as I did,” Tolliver said.

Tolliver’s arrival comes eight days after most of the other rookies reported to training camp. As a result, while Charger coaches were happy to have him, they weren’t about to throw a welcoming party.

“I haven’t talked to him yet,” Henning said after practice.

Not even a hello?

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“No, I’m too busy,” Henning said.

How far behind the rest of the team is Tolliver?

“Eight days,” Henning said. “I don’t know if he can make that up. He’ll have to get in extra study time. And Ted (Tollner, quarterback coach) will have to spend extra time with him, and that’s an extra strain on Ted. I don’t like that much.

“We’ll try to get him some extra work, but we can’t slow down what we’re doing. I noticed Ted talking with him a couple of times today, and I had to speed things up.”

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Talks between the Chargers and Tolliver broke down last Wednesday, and the sides failed to talk on Thursday. But, according to Courrege, he and Vines called Steve Ortmayer, the Chargers’ director of football operations, on Friday with another proposal, and the new talks culminated in a midnight phone call--Dallas time--Saturday evening. That led to Courrege, Vines and Tolliver boarding a plane for San Diego Sunday morning.

Courrege said the Chargers sweetened their offer after Wednesday.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “Billy Joe wouldn’t be here if both sides didn’t move.”

Said Vines: “He’s an unusual player. From day one, based on the quarterback situation here, we felt there would be complex negotiations.”

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Vines said that Charger owner Alex Spanos wasn’t involved in the negotiations.

If nothing else, the Chargers at least have another quarterback in camp. They have been so short on bodies during practices this week that public relations assistant David Neville has been taking snaps.

Mark Malone and David Archer, the only quarterbacks in camp, split time in the scrimmage against the Rams. Malone completed five of nine passes for 34 yards, but threw an interception on his first attempt. Archer completed three of five passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns.

At one time, Henning thought Tolliver could compete for a starting job. But now, given Tolliver’s late arrival, Henning isn’t so sure.

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“I have to look at him again,” Henning said.

But Tolliver was late to camp for precisely that reason--in case he became the starter.

“Our goal was that, should Billy Joe become the starter, he would be paid comparable to other quarterbacks in the league,” Courrege said. “We realize today he’s an unproven rookie, but we liken him to Boomer Esiason in Cincinnati in that they need a quarterback here who can take them to the playoffs. A guy who can throw, lead, and who has a personality.”

Charger Notes

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As for the 11-on-11 scrimmage with the Rams, no Charger helped himself more than Wayne Walker, a free agent from Texas Tech. Walker caught two touchdown passes, the second of which followed an impressive 20-yard run through the Ram secondary. “I think I’d be lying if I said Wayne Walker didn’t catch my eye,” Charger Coach Dan Henning said. . . . Henning also was impressed by running back Victor Floyd (33 yards in five attempts), cornerback Roy Bennett (one interception), and linebackers Cedric Figaro and Keith Browner. . . . Running back Napoleon McCallum, bothered by a hamstring injury, carried three times for 19 yards. . . . Each team ran three series of 12 offensive plays. The Chargers scored twice, and the Rams didn’t score. . . . The Chargers also signed running back Lionel James and kicker Vince Abbott Sunday, leaving nose tackle Joe Phillips, linebacker Gary Plummer and running back Gary Anderson as the only unsigned veterans. . . .The Chargers cut running back Robert LaVette, linebacker Bob Sebring and center-guard Darrick Brilz.


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