Forrest Lamp burst out of a three-point stance, swung his massive right forearm and jammed his left fist into the chest of a defender and maintained his block a few yards down the line, one of several individual drills the Chargers offensive lineman participated in during Monday’s practice in Costa Mesa.
It had been a year since Lamp practiced with the team, a year since he took even a hint of contact, a year since right-knee surgery deprived him of his rookie NFL season, yet it all felt so familiar, so natural to the 6-foot-4, 310-pounder.
“I haven’t done football stuff in a year, but it comes back pretty quick,” said Lamp, a second-round pick out of Western Kentucky in 2017. “It’s like riding a bike.”
Except the training wheels are still on. Lamp, who underwent surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last August, was activated from the physically unable to perform list Monday, but he spent only 40 minutes drilling with his fellow linemen before working on his own for the rest of practice.
“It’s hard because you want to jump right back in and do everything, but I have trust in the training staff, I have trust in coach [Anthony] Lynn, and I know they have my best interest at heart,” Lamp said. “They have a plan for me to work back in slowly.”
Lynn said he hopes Lamp, who underwent a minor clean-up surgery on the knee in May, will be ready to play in the third preseason game — against the New Orleans Saints on Aug. 25 — but doesn’t want to put a strict timetable on his return. Lynn hasn’t had to push Lamp so much as he’s had to restrain him.
“This was huge,” Lynn said of Lamp’s return. “It’s been a long time for Forrest. He’s chomping at the bit, man. We’re having to hold him back right now.”
If Lamp can regain the strength and form that made him the 38th overall pick in the 2017 draft, he will push guards Dan Feeney and Michael Schofield for a starting job. At the very least, he will add quality depth to a line that includes tackles Russell Okung and Joe Barksdale and new center Mike Pouncey.
Lamp missed a season’s worth of games and practice repetitions and the entire offseason program, but has been in virtually every team and positional group meeting and feels he has a good grasp of the offense. Despite his lengthy absence, he believes he can be an impact player.
“That’s my goal,” Lamp said. “Whether you’re drafted, a free agent or coming back from injury, everybody wants to play, so that’s my ultimate goal. … Today was my first day of working back into individual [drills], and it felt great.”
Lynn was not pleased with the play of his tight ends in Saturday night’s 24-17 preseason loss at Arizona. Sean Culkin caught two passes for 24 yards, but Braedon Bowman, Ben Johnson and Virgil Green did not catch any of the six passes that came their way.
“I thought Sean Culkin did some nice things, and Virgil showed he can be physical in the running game,” Lynn said Monday. “But overall, we dropped too many balls in the tight end position. We have to make some of those catches.”
Lynn will have another tight end to evaluate this week, but not Antonio Gates, the 15-year NFL veteran who has been in talks with the Chargers but remains a free agent.
The Chargers on Monday claimed tight end Je’Ron Hamm off waivers from the Seahawks and waived wide receiver Marcus Peterson. The 6-3, 236-pound Hamm has played in six career games with the Redskins and 49ers, catching two passes for 13 yards for San Francisco in 2015.
Kickers must do better
The Chargers churned through four kickers last season — Younghoe Koo, Nick Novak, Travis Coons and Nick Rose — in an effort to find some consistency at the key position.
Caleb Sturgis and Roberto Aguayo are battling for the job this summer, and the early returns were mixed. Sturgis made a 45-yard field goal but was wide left on a 41-yard attempt against the Cardinals.
“Not good enough,” Lynn said, when asked what he thought of his kickers on Saturday night. “We had two kicks and made 50% of them. You get paid to make kicks. Make them.”
Joey Bosa, out since Aug. 7 because of a sore left foot, remained sidelined Monday, but Lynn said the star defensive end is “doing great, he’s on track, the foot is feeling a lot better. We’re just being careful with him.” … Reserve linebacker James Onwualu suffered a groin injury in Saturday night’s game and did not practice on Monday. … Reserve offensive lineman Brett Boyko was activated off the non-football injury list and practiced Monday.
Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter @MikeDiGiovanna