CHARGER NOTEBOOK : Hall Comes Out Hitting in Practice

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Funny that the Chargers would issue strong safety Delton Hall a red jersey.

You could understand them ordering a new set of hands for H-back Craig McEwen or keeping a fire hose on cornerback Donald (They Always Burn Me Deep) Frank.

Only the real babies wear red jerseys, you know, like quarterbacks and kickers. But the Chargers have given Hall a red jersey, and while that is supposed to remind everyone that he is not fully recovered from knee surgery, tell that to the receivers who were knocked to the ground on day one of the Chargers' mini-camp.

"Delton is a very intense person," said Chargers Coach Bobby Ross. "He wants to get into it. It didn't surprise me that he jumped in there."

The Chargers acquired Hall, and his reputation for being a punishing hitter, via Plan B free agency from Pittsburgh. They will shift him from cornerback to strong safety and ask him to play the role of enforcer in the secondary.

"The strong safety is supposed to be the macho guy on the field," Hall said. "And that's my total style."

Hall was supposed to let the trainers work on his knee until the opening of training camp, but last week he convinced the team he was ready to join the voluntary workouts. Friday he was lined up as the team's starting strong safety.

"We will let him work to his (pain) tolerance," Ross said. "But he jumped right in there. He's probably ahead of where we thought he would be, and it's a good thing for us as a team."

Tell that to the black-and-blue receivers.

Running back Rod Bernstine, linebackers Leslie O'Neal and Henry Rolling, center Courtney Hall, tackle Broderick Thompson and defensive lineman Joe Phillips are not signed and not obliged to participate in mini-camp. Ross, however, persuaded O'Neal, Hall, Thompson and Phillips to attend team meetings.

Rolling called to say he would arrive later, but Bernstine advised Ross that he would take no part in mini-camp.

"He's (Bernstine) been working out, lifting and running and all those things," Ross said. "I don't totally understand" why Bernstine is not in camp.

Quarterback Bob Gagliano, who missed the team's earlier mini-camp with a pulled stomach muscle, will have to do better to keep Jeff Graham from bypassing him on the depth chart.

"We need to have more zip on the ball, I can tell you that," Ross said. "He said it (muscle) is OK now."

Hello, Jenny Craig.

Chargers' defensive tackle George Thornton weighed in at 331 pounds, and then dropped to 317, although he presently doesn't look like a pound less than 350.

"He needs to be at 294 when we report (to training camp)," Ross said. "You're damn right, he will be fined if he's not."

Ross has made one thing clear so far: He is a stickler for detail. When asked how many passes McEwen has caught, he replied without hesitation, "I know he was at 54% in the first mini-camp, which was the lowest in our program."

Ross has high standards.

"What would be good percentage? 90%," he said. "It should be 100%. Receivers are not supposed to drop balls, they really aren't. I'm looking for 100%."

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