Chargers feel at home as they prepare to say goodbye to San Diego in the next few months
The blue steel and leather folding chairs say “San Diego.” The giant sign above the front door to the facility says “San Diego.” The signage around the building says “San Diego.” The players’ mortgages and vehicle registrations ... they probably all say “San Diego” too.
This all makes perfect sense. The Chargers opened their offseason workouts in San Diego on Monday morning just like they have for years and years.
But, as quarterback Philip Rivers took questions after the first day of the offseason program, he answered questions in front of a backdrop that said “Los Angeles” — a very present reminder that the place Rivers and so many people within the Chargers organization called “home” wasn’t going to stay that way for long.
A story with twists and turns — with failed stadium proposals and referendums, hefty relocation fees and angry fans — continued in a bizarre way. Day 1 of the Chargers’ first season in Los Angeles began with players lifting weights and conditioning on the field in their former home.
“It’s weird in a sense,” Rivers said, “but then it’s not because it’s what we’ve always done.”
They’re gone, but they’re here. They’re leaving, but not yet.
The team’s entire offseason program up until training camp is scheduled to be held at Chargers Park, a place where angry fans gathered in January to burn jerseys and memorabilia after the team announced its move to Los Angeles.
If there was any awkwardness about the pending move, players such as Rivers and veteran tight end Antonio Gates dismissed it. Once work began, players were too immersed in introductions to a new coaching and strength and conditioning staff.
“Once you get into it,” Rivers said, “I think it’s just how we’re wired.”
Added Gates: “It doesn’t really matter where we practice.”
That’s not to say there aren’t personal concerns that are causing issues. Players are deciding where to move, whether to buy or rent or, in some cases, whether to stay in San Diego and just deal with the commute to the team’s new Costa Mesa headquarters.
And with any move comes a break in routine, saying goodbye to the place you frequented for coffee, the shop where you get your car fixed and the restaurant where you could just order “the usual.” All of that will be left behind.
But with the change there’s also a sense of finality — an end to the stadium saga in San Diego that loomed so largely over the team’s last two seasons, years in which they won nine games and lost 27.
“You can always come up with excuses as to why you’re not winning football games,” Gates said. “At the end of the day, this is our occupation. This is what we do for a living. This is what we get paid to do. Obviously, the uncertainty had somewhat of an effect on how you play at some times. ... I don’t want to use that as a crutch as to why we didn’t do the things we wanted to do last year. But, at the same time, it makes the transition a little smoother when we know where we’re going to be.
“And, we don’t have to deal with whether we’re going to be in San Diego or Los Angeles every single day.”
It might not be the question that keeps them up at night anymore, but it’ll almost certainly be one they’ll have to answer continuously from media as the Chargers progress from conditioning to OTAs and minicamps.
“For the most part, it felt the same going to our same place, same locker room, same weight room,” Rivers said. “… It hasn’t all the way settled in because we’re in the same environment.”
Rivers said that he wasn’t upset by the suggestion that the Chargers could select a quarterback in the upcoming draft, a decision that he knows will have to be made eventually. “I don’t take it as my role that, ‘Oh, we drafted a young guy that’s your eventual replacement so get him ready,’” Rivers said. “But, at the same time, I enjoy sharing, both things I’ve learned and letting the young guy see how I’ve done things. And, shoot, at the same time, I’m always going to compete.” …Gates, not normally a presence at voluntary workouts, surprised people by showing up Monday. “I’ve made a conscious effort in doing certain things differently because I want something different — a championship,” Gates said. …Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane said that he’s 100% recovered from a torn bicep injury that sidelined him for the second half of last season. … Coach Anthony Lynn made a strong impression in his first meeting with the team. “You can tell he’s going to have great command of a room and of a team,” Rivers said. “He’s got a great energy, and that’ll filter in.”
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