For Gagliano, Inactivity Is a Fact of Life : Chargers: He could be No. 3 quarterback, or he could be gone. But with questions surrounding Tolliver and Friesz, he's insurance for now.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

While Billy Joe Tolliver and John Friesz have taken most of the snaps and most of the heat this summer, Bob Gagliano has become the forgotten man.

Coach Dan Henning and offensive coordinator Ted Tollner on Friday raised the possibility that Gagliano could soon be the dispensable man.

Neither are sure that the Chargers will keep three quarterbacks, which doesn't bode well for Gagliano's future with the team.

"We just don't know," Henning said.

Said Tollner: "There's not a guarantee that he's going to make this team."

But Gagliano, an eight-year NFL veteran who is playing with his fourth team, isn't so sure.

"I'm not worried about anything," he said. "Everything's going to work out all right."

Even though Gagliano has played only a quarter in two preseason games and has received very little work in practice, he senses things will get better.

"This is a big pot of fire as far as the quarterback situation right here," he said. "They can't think about getting rid of me at this point."

For now, Gagliano is playing along.

"I'm taking it day by day," said Gagliano, who completed five of seven passes for 29 yards and a touchdown against Houston two weeks ago. "When you're building the future of a team, you're not going to look to a 32-year-old guy. I'm going to be an insurance policy, although that's not etched in stone. It's just my perception of it right now."

It appears Gagliano, who was acquired in the off-season from Detroit as a Plan B free agent, has the correct perception. Henning and Tollner said the decision was made before camp that Gagliano would be the No. 3 quarterback.

"You don't have enough snaps in a game to see all the quarterbacks," Henning said. "Unless you have an established six- or seven-year veteran that just needs to be toned up, then you can work the second or third guy. That's not the case we're in."

Gagliano understands the predicament Henning is in, but he said the lack of work is starting to affect him.

"I haven't had a lot of opportunities to really show anything," he said. "When there comes a time for me to have to play, I know I can play. I've done it in the past. But I need work. If I could get a weeks worth of reps, I'd be ready."

Henning said he admires Gagliano for being patient and keeping a positive attitude.

"Bob has been very good in his approach to it," Henning said. "I know he would like to get more work. But he hasn't complained. He's worked hard out here."

Said Tollner: "The guy's a pro. He doesn't like the fact that he's not getting the same opportunities. But he's a team guy and he's going to deal with it.

Henning said there is a chance Gagliano might play the fourth quarter Monday night at San Francisco. He announced that Tolliver would play the first and third quarters, Friesz the second and he left the fourth quarter open.

On Tuesday, Henning said Friesz might play the first half and Tolliver the second. But he decided that he wanted to see Tolliver in both halves.

"We also wanted to give John a chance to work with the starters," Henning said.

Tolliver didn't read much into Henning's announcement, but he was pleased with it.

"The way I look at it, I get to start both halves," he said. "I really didn't know what to expect. I guess they just want to see different situations."

Henning also said Rod Bernstine would be his starting running back, regardless of what Marion Butts does.

With Butts still holding out, Henning said he has decided to plan for life without him.

"I have no choice," he said. "I don't know where he is physically or mentally."

Henning said Butts' value to the team is decreasing each day.

"In this business, players are independent contractors," he said. "They have to have assets of mind and body. When they're not working for the other guys, they become depreciating assets."

Even if Butts walked into camp today, Bernstine would still be the starter, Henning said.

"We have to start thinking about the season," he said. "We have to keep Bernstine tuned up and not wearing him down. So he goes in fresh and not stale."

Henning said Ronnie Harmon will replace Bernstine in running situations should Bernstine get hurt. But he said that could change if rookie Eric Bieniemy shows that he can play.

"Eric Bieniemy is going to have to show us durability, (the ability to) hold the football, tenacity, toughness, before we would use he instead of Ronnie," he said. "We're expecting that to happen, because we don't want to use Ronnie too much."

Henning said he is not the only one who has decided to move on without Butts. "I haven't had any players mention Buttsy lately," he said. "That is an unusual thing, but it's fact. You miss him, but then you have to go to work."

Wide receiver Anthony Miller dropped a perfectly thrown bomb from Tolliver on the last play of practice. Miller also let an almost certain touchdown pass fall through his hands last Monday against the Rams.

Henning was asked if he was concerned about Miller's two dropped passes.

"You mean you've only counted two," Henning laughed. "I'm not that concerned."

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