Mike Pouncey doesn’t skip a beat, or snap, as Chargers’ new center of attention
They have raved about his leadership, his example, his presence.
The Chargers love the way Mike Pouncey can equally command a huddle and a meeting room, the team’s new center establishing an aura after making three Pro Bowls in his first seven NFL seasons.
His presence is important to Pouncey — almost as important as his, well, presence.
Having just completed his first training camp with the Chargers, Pouncey was most proud that he was always present, morning after morning, from the first stretch to the final whistle.
“I had my mind made up that I was going to come in every day and not miss a snap, not miss a practice,” he said this week. “I wanted to have the best training camp I’ve had since I was a pro. I feel like I’ve done that.”
And now Pouncey has a chance to prove it again Saturday at StubHub Center against New Orleans in the Chargers’ third preseason game.
The act of reporting to work without interruption is vital to him, particularly along the blue-collar offensive line, which in the highlight-driven NFL is as 9-to-5 as a job can get.
Pouncey, playing for Miami, started all 16 games last season for the first time since 2012. He missed time in each of the previous four years because of injury or illness.
Pouncey was so committed to proving that he could start every game that the Dolphins helped by scaling back his activity in the preseason and giving him additional rest during the regular season.
Having done the work necessary to again be an every-Sunday performer, Pouncey proclaimed after the season that his 16 straight starts were “a big middle finger” to anyone who doubted him.
That’s the brassy attitude now anchoring a Chargers offensive front that figures to be key to the team’s fate.
“Obviously, you knew of him as being a Pro Bowl player,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “Mike certainly has lived up to all the expectations that we had.”
The Chargers allowed the fewest sacks (18) in the league last season, but also averaged only 3.8 yards per carry, tied for seventh worst in the NFL.
Pouncey and tight end Virgil Green, another free-agent signing, were brought aboard to help boost the latter number.
“Mike Pouncey has been the biggest difference,” coach Anthony Lynn said. “He’s been a nice fit with that whole offensive line, with the whole mindset there. You’ve got a veteran center. That center is like the quarterback of the O-line.”
Pouncey, 29, is known for his athleticism and ability to pull on running plays. He also brings a sharp demeanor to a group the Chargers hoped to make tougher.
Pouncey, who signed a two-year, $15-million contract in March, arrived here ticked off.
He was not as upset about being cut by the Dolphins as he was about how they cut him — via text message to his agent, an act Pouncey later described as “fuel to the fire” that burns inside him.
A former Dolphins captain, he had spent his entire career with Miami, starting all 93 games in which he appeared. After Pouncey was waived in a decision more about business than football, Dolphins coach Adam Gase acknowledged, “I don’t know if you can really replace him.”
Nearly a month into his first preseason with another team, Pouncey is trying to show just how irreplaceable he is … morning after morning, snap after snap.
“I wanted to change this offensive line’s mindset,” he said. “I want us to be a physical group that goes out there and plays hard every single down. We’ve worked on that all training camp. We can’t wait to put it on display.”
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