One by one over the last four months, the Chargers have been asked about the lingering effects of that potentially demoralizing playoff defeat in New England.
Their answers have ranged from still feeling the sting to no longer feeling anything at all.
“Yeah, I’m over it,” defensive back Desmond King said. “I have a short memory. So I let negative things go by, let positive things go by and just move on to the next step.”
The team will move on en masse Monday, as the next step after the abrupt end of the 2018 season is the official opening of organized team activities in Costa Mesa.
As a group, the Chargers will take the field for the most football-like phase yet of their offseason. Each NFL team is permitted 10 days of OTAs.
So the mental health of this group will be on display as much as the physical health, and there’s no ducking the significance of the latter.
Most notably, each of the three starting linebackers from 2018 — Denzel Perryman, Jatavis Brown and Kyzir White — continues to come back from season-ending injuries.
First-round pick Jerry Tillery, a defensive lineman from Notre Dame, remains limited by his surgically repaired shoulder.
Entering the start of OTAs, here are some key questions:
What’s the latest on Forrest Lamp?
A second-round pick in 2017, Lamp to date has had an NFL career of 17 plays at right guard.
He missed his rookie season after tearing a knee ligament and was limited to two late-game appearances in 2018 because the Chargers were reluctant to mess with their offensive-line chemistry.
Now healthy, Lamp will be given “every opportunity to compete for a job,” according to his position coach.
“He’s going to get reps with the ones and he’ll share time,” said Pat Meyer, who oversees the offensive line. “It’s going to be a competition, which is good. It’s good for them. It’s good for the team.”
At right guard, Lamp is behind Michael Schofield. The Chargers’ left guard is Dan Feeney.
Who will replace Jahleel Addae at free safety?
The Chargers released Addae after six seasons and then used their second-round pick on Nasir Adderley, a speedy and athletic safety out of Delaware.
The rookie will be considered for the starting spot, but the Chargers also return Rayshawn Jenkins, whose role increased throughout last season, and Jaylen Watkins, who is coming back from a knee injury that cost him all of 2018.
“There’s going to be a competition,” defensive backs coach Ron Milus said. “Nothing is going to be given to anyone. I still see all those guys fighting it out. Whoever goes out there will be able to do the job.”
Who will start at cornerback opposite Casey Hayward?
Michael Davis started the final nine games last season after Trevor Williams was injured.
Williams is now back, and he and Davis could have a spirited battle for the starting job.
Milus said if the season began today, Davis would have the spot, but he left room for Williams to re-emerge as the starter.
“Mike finished the season off strong,” Milus said. “I don’t think we took a step back when Mike was on the field. Trevor’s looked really good when he’s been out here. He’s moving around much better than he did a year ago.
“I’m excited for Trevor, just to see where he’s at. At the end of the day, if Trevor’s the best one, then he’ll be out there.”
How noisy will the Chargers’ practices be in 2019?
Veteran linebacker Thomas Davis said he and quarterback Cam Newton regularly engaged in lively and loud practice banter in Carolina.
Now with the Chargers, Davis has a new quarterback in Philip Rivers, who quite famously could be fitted with a microphone as easily as a mouthpiece.
“I’ve heard he gets after it pretty good in practice,” Rivers said. “It will be fun having another defensive guy. … Casey and I have always had a little interaction.
“I think it’s good. I think it brings out the best in both sides, kind of adds a little energy to some practices that may be a little sluggish. It’s all in good fun. It’s all about pushing and trying to make each other better.”
Said Davis, “It definitely gives me more juice because I can’t go out there and talk trash to him if I’m not backing it up.”
How much will Hunter Henry’s return boost the offense?
The Chargers lost big-play wide receiver Tyrell Williams in free agency to Oakland.
Though Henry, as a tight end, won’t give Rivers a similar threat downfield, he can provide a significant target over the middle and in the red zone.
“It’s been a long process,” said Henry, who missed the regular season and played only briefly in the loss to the Patriots because of a knee injury. “This thing is crazy how long it takes. I'm just excited to get back out with the guys and get going.”