The San Diego Chargers can envision rookie outside linebacker Larry English stepping in for All-Pro Shawne Merriman one day.

First, they'd just like to see English step on the field.

The No. 16 pick from Northern Illinois has been nursing a hamstring injury -- the first of his football career -- and has been relegated to spectator status in training camp.

"They're just being precautionary and making sure it's completely 100% before I come back and get going full speed," he said. "But I'm running, working out, doing all that stuff. They just don't want to take any chances."

The Chargers have the luxury of taking their time with English, seeing as they already have two of the best outside linebackers in the game in Merriman and Shaun Phillips. They can pick their spots with the rookie.

"The thing that would be a concern to me is if we were to rush this thing and it became a lingering thing throughout the year," Coach Norv Turner said. "It's not like he's going to go in and start. We need to get him ready to play. He's shown great explosiveness, great pass-rush ability, he's a very smart guy, and we're going to use him with those other guys who are pretty good.

"We've got time. And the foolish thing for us would be to panic and say, 'Hey, we've got to get him out there! He won't be ready!' And then to have this thing turn into something chronic."

Merriman, who underwent knee surgery last fall and sat out the 2008 season, concedes he wasn't at all pleased when the Chargers used their first-round pick to select an outside linebacker. Still, he said, he plans to help English all he can.

"I think I owe it to the game -- not to him -- but to the game," said Merriman, who's in the final year of his contract. "Because when I came in, there were people who took me under their wing. When I was in high school, when I was in college, there were always older guys that took me under their wing and showed me the ropes.

"If I didn't do that for somebody else, then Larry wouldn't know how to pass that along to somebody else when he's in his fifth, sixth, seventh year?"

As for the writing on the wall, that the Chargers brought English in to eventually take over for him?

"Business is business," Merriman said. "That's the way it goes. I'm going to continue to do what I've got to do. What I've done is self-explanatory. What I'm going to continue to do is self-explanatory."


Sizzlin' Favre

George Stewart didn't say a word. He didn't need to.

Instead, the Minnesota Vikings assistant coach simply shook his head, smiled and extended his hand to receiver Sidney Rice for a fist bump.

Moments earlier, during his first full day with the Vikings, Brett Favre had zipped a 25-yard frozen rope to Rice, who was running a post pattern down the right side. The pass absolutely screamed, leaving a crowd of reporters on the sideline letting loose with an involuntary: "Whoa . . . "

Stewart, who coaches the wide receivers, has seen Favre make similar throws for years -- but always for the other team.

"I saw that against us when I was in San Francisco and Tampa," Stewart said later. "I just wanted to remind Sydney that's a throw he's not used to seeing, because that thing was on a line, a laser shot. No words said; he knew exactly what I was talking about.

"That's what you're going to see. And with [Favre], that's exactly what he brings to us."

Stewart is on his fifth team since becoming an NFL assistant coach in 1989, the other four teams being Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, San Francisco and Atlanta.

"I've counted up, I'm 3-21 against Brett Favre," he said. "So I have a special appreciation for what he can do."

Two of those three victories came when Stewart was coaching for the 49ers, back when Steve Mariucci was the head coach and Jim Mora was the defensive coordinator.

"It was always special because Brett is such a gamesman," Stewart said. "Brett would make a play, look over to our bench and smile. He was just out there having fun."

Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, who had 14 1/2 sacks last season, says he'd much rather have Favre as a teammate than an opponent. Favre has seen a lot of forced throws intercepted, but he's also made a lot of big plays that way.

"I remember playing against him when I was in Kansas City," Allen said. "There was time I was hitting him and he was throwing balls 50 yards down the field and people were catching them. You've got to admire the guy because he's a master of his craft. He does things people can't do."


Raiders get punchy

As if the Raiders don't have enough worries with their team, now their head coach could be in trouble.

The week started with reports that Coach Tom Cable slugged defensive assistant Randy Hanson in the face, breaking his jaw. And on Friday, Nationalfootballpost.com reported the two coaches fell to the floor during the alleged Aug. 5 fight, and Cable wound up choking Hanson and said, "I'm going to kill you! I'm going to kill you!"

Napa police say they have re-opened the investigation after receiving new information about it.

Although it's easy to brush off the alleged incident as typical Raiders shenanigans, Cable could be in hot water with the league if he actually threw a punch. It isn't just players but all league employees who are bound by Commissioner Roger Goodell's conduct policy.

"It is not enough to simply avoid being found guilty of a crime," the policy says. "Instead, as an employee of the NFL or a member club, you are held to a higher standard and expected to conduct yourself in a way that is responsible, promotes the values upon which the league is based, and is lawful."

Safe to say league executives will be watching to see how this situation unfolds.




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