The cuts and the pain caused to Philip Rivers have largely healed in the months since it was announced San Diego would no longer be his football home.
Still, he knows this is his last week in San Diego with his team, one that’s bigger than just the players on the field. So those wounds might get a little reopened. The Chargers will be heading to Costa Mesa for training camp this summer before playing their first season in Los Angeles since 1960.
“I do enjoy that team — people — the team as the people in the locker room, the people in the organization, the city as a team. You feel part of a community,” Rivers said. “It was just kind of a meant-to-be progression of those 13 years. I’m not surprised. All but one of my children has been born out here. You begin, over time, to call it home.”
While Thursday is scheduled to be the team’s final workout in San Diego, their final set of formal practices down south kicked off Tuesday with plenty of nostalgia going around.
There was Rivers zipping passes to his favorite target over the years, Antonio Gates. There was Melvin Ingram, a day after signing a $66-million contract, using “bittersweet” to describe the feelings he and his teammates were having.
While the Chargers have worked on readying their new home, holding the offseason program in San Diego has proved to be a little awkward.
And at the forefront was Rivers, the player with the deepest roots in the San Diego community.
In the aftermath of the announcement that the team would move to L.A., Rivers took to the airwaves in San Diego and tried to explain the predicament he faced.
In his rearview was a city he loved, a place associated with nearly all of his best memories as an adult. And, on the horizon, there was a new challenge, one that would require all his focus and excitement if it’s to be successful.
Nearly five months later, Rivers tried to explain those complex feelings again.
“I’m trying to keep … you know … not kind of go through the whole thing again. … Come the last day, the last practice, you’re out there on the practice field — it’s a lot of time spent out there, a lot of balls thrown. It was a lot of time spent in this locker room, weight room, meeting room,” Rivers said. “… I don’t know how many days, probably 300-plus a year, we’ve been coming in here in some capacity. So, yeah, I think as it comes to an end, it’s a time to be forever thankful for the time here and getting to stay in one place for as long as I have, personally. … In a way, it’s a tough day.”
Gates, the second-longest tenured Chargers player, said he’s sure he’ll be nostalgic too. He’ll pop into his favorite restaurants around town to say “thanks.” He’ll remember the sweat it took to go from an undrafted free agent to a future Hall of Famer.
“It’s just one of those things where we need to take time out to say thank you to San Diego, and the fans that have been here to support us,” Gates said. “But at the same time I’m excited to move to L.A. I’m excited about the new change. And hopefully they’ll welcome us with open arms and embrace us. And we can win some games and win a championship.”
Football helps deal with the complexities, Rivers said. On the field, it’s not the past, it’s posts and out routes. And while training camp in Costa Mesa will be a shock to the system, football will make that OK too.
“I’m not trying to overstate this whole thing again. I think we’ve all moved on in the sense that we’re full steam ahead,” Rivers said before pausing. “There’s no denying the fact when you’re in the last week somewhere that’s been special to you, it’s meaningful.”
Ingram back at work
The healthier bank account and fatter pockets aren’t the only changes for Ingram, who had his first practice under new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. There are the semantics that need to be handled too.
Called a “linebacker” in the team’s previous 3-4 defense, Ingram will now be a “defensive end” in Bradley’s 4-3. And while the titles might be different, the goal is the same — get to the quarterback.
Coach Anthony Lynn said the roles will be similar, but there will still be some subtle changes.
“I haven’t talk to anyone who’s played my position, but I’ve talked to people who have played under [Bradley]. Everybody I’ve talked to loves him,” Ingram said. “Everybody says he’s a great coach and he’s going to come out ready to work every day. That’s what we need. We need to be able to come out every day because we have a goal we’re trying to obtain and that’s the only way you’re going to get to it.”
Ingram said he knew he clicked with defensive end Joey Bosa, and the two have big plans for offenses in the AFC West and the rest of the Chargers opponents.
“We had chemistry instantly,” Ingram said. “I feel like it can only get stronger. Last year was really big. We got a head start on everything and this is our second year playing together so we’re really a lot more comfortable together. It’s going to be special.”
For the first time in drills open to the media, rookies Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney, the team’s second- and third-round picks, worked with the starting offensive line. Lamp worked at right guard and Feeney played center.
“We’re just looking at different combinations. … We’re playing around with them,” Lynn said. “We don’t want those guys to be jack of all trades, master of nothing. But right now, we’re just looking at different combinations before we get to training camp.”
Rivers said the rookies looked unfazed in the first-unit huddle.
“It’s not too big for them. They jumped right in, jumped right into that huddle today and there wasn’t a different look on their faces,” Rivers said. “It was, ‘Let’s go.’ Again, I’m not saying they’ve got it all figured out yet — I think they’d be the first to tell you they have a lot of work to do — but they both have a good look to them, as far as in and out of the huddle and the things they’re doing once the ball is snapped.”
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