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CHARGERS NOTEBOOK : Henning Pores Over a ‘Pleasant’ Dilemma

As complications go, this one isn’t too bad.

Charger Coach Dan Henning has too many good running backs.

One of them, Rod Bernstine, who also plays H-back and tight end, ran wild in Saturday’s 30-27 exhibition victory over the Rams in Anaheim. He finished with 94 yards on eight carries and also had five receptions for 36 yards.

Marion Butts is the starter. Ronnie Harmon, a 5-foot-11, 200-pound Plan B free agent from Buffalo, won’t be shipped out as long as he stays healthy. Another, Thomas Sanders, a Plan B free agent from Chicago, also is a good bet to make the team.

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That leaves Joe Mickles, Jerry Mays and Darrin Nelson, who are probably competing for one position. Henning likes Nelson’s big-play capabilities and experience. Mays is a good punt returner, Mickles a good blocker.

Tough decision.

“The running situation got bolstered up by some good play,” Henning said. “And that may complicate it a little bit, but that’s more of a pleasant complication that you like to have.”

As for Bernstine, he may have made his situation complicated by worrying too much. He said he didn’t sleep very well before Saturday’s game. No need for that, Henning says.

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“Rod knows he’s wanted,” Henning said. “If he needs a little sugar, we’ll get a bag of cubes and carry them around.”

Outside linebacker Leslie O’Neal has approved the two-year contract that Charger General Manager Bobby Beathard and Marvin Demoff, O’Neal’s agent, agreed on Saturday. Henning said he expected O’Neal to report to camp today.

Nate Lewis, a seventh-round draft choice from Oregon Tech, enhanced his chances of making the team with an 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, which proved to be Saturday’s game-winner.

Lewis, said Henning, lost about 13 pounds since he was drafted and has become more effective.

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“He’s shown more quickness,” Henning said. “He’s got good hands, and he’s a tough guy.”

Fuad Reveiz got the upper hand on John Carney Saturday in the duel for the place-kicking position. Reveiz converted both PAT attempts and connected on a 27-yard field goal. Carney missed a 27-yard attempt and was one of two on PATs.

How soon will the Chargers be down to one?

“I think that they’re both pretty good kickers and we’ll probably hold on to them as long as we can, later than you might think,” said Henning, who said both would likely still be on the roster for next Saturday’s game against the 49ers.

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After a shaky start in which he threw an interception, Mark Vlasic settled down to another strong performance Saturday, completing 12 of 16 for 138 yards and a touchdown. Starter Billy Joe Tolliver was 10 for 20 for 124 yards.

Said Henning: “The redhead (Tolliver) was off the mark a little bit but he had some balls dropped. He didn’t make any errors that hurt us in the game. Mark again had a very good performance with the exception of the interception.”

John Friesz, a rookie from Idaho, came in on the final play and dropped to his knee for a two-yard loss. He has yet to throw a pass during the exhibition season.

Nose tackle Les Miller, who left the game with a hyperextended elbow, may miss some practice this week, Henning said.

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Tight end Arthur Cox, out 12 days with a strained back, will undergo tests today. Henning said Cox will cut down to two meals a day to maintain his playing weight.


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