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Chargers

Forrest Lamp has line on Chargers’ starting job after two years of knee problems

Chargers guard Forrest Lamp during training camp at Jack R. Hammett Sports Complex in Costa Mesa.
Chargers guard Forrest Lamp during training camp at Jack R. Hammett Sports Complex in Costa Mesa.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

He has appeared in exactly two games during his two NFL seasons.

Yet, the Chargers’ Forrest Lamp remains one of the team’s most talked-about players among fans on social media, the level of attention in direct disproportion to the 17 total snaps he has spent on the field.

“I don’t understand it,” Lamp said Tuesday. “I don’t get it. I play offensive line. I’d rather it not be like that.”

All the time that Lamp hasn’t played might be the very reason he remains so popular. Those fans are eager to see what he can do.

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And so are the Chargers, the good news being that the wait is just about over. Lamp, 25, is as healthy as he has been in two years and ready to restart a career derailed by a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

“I feel great,” he said. “It’s like night and day. I’m a lot happier, a lot better off now.”

Selected by the Chargers in the second round in 2017, Lamp missed his rookie year after being hurt in training camp in early August.

Well after the season, in May, the injury required a second surgical procedure, one that restricted Lamp from putting weight on his right leg for nearly 10 weeks.

Hunter Henry, back from a serious knee injury, has looked fresh and fully healthy at tight end through the first five days of L.A. Chargers training camp.

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“I wasn’t able to work out all the way up to camp,” he explained. “I just felt weak, out of shape, things like that. This year, I got a full offseason under my belt, and I feel strong and actually feel in shape.”

Lamp spent much of last season trying to catch up to his teammates, his chances of receiving a roster spot on game days hindered by the fact he lacked the versatility to play multiple positions.

By the time he was healthy enough to challenge for playing time, the Chargers’ offensive line had been solidified and the team was marching through a 12-4 season and into the playoffs.

Now, Lamp is alternating reps with the first team and playing both left and right guard as the Chargers continue to shuffle their offensive line in search of the best alignment.

He said he hasn’t felt this healthy since his senior year at Western Kentucky, where Lamp earned all-American honors and established himself as perhaps the greatest player in school history.

“This is a guy who’s been out of football for two years now,” veteran center Mike Pouncey said. “The way he’s come out in this camp I’ve been very, very impressed. He’s a strong football player. He’s very stout.”

Lamp said he has spoken to teammates — he mentioned Melvin Ingram and Nick Dzubnar — about coming back from a major knee injury. He said he has been assured that it takes two years before “you really start to feel back to being yourself.”

New Era introduced its 2019 NFL sideline collection Monday. Which team will look snazziest and which will want to hide its head?

The two-year mark for Lamp arrives Friday, a week before the Chargers open play in preseason games that don’t count but still can mean plenty.

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“The big thing is going to be to see him in the preseason in live action,” offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said. “It’s unfortunate that we haven’t had him as much as we would like, but we’re really excited to have him back.”

The Chargers’ offensive line remains unsettled. Left tackle Russell Okung is out after suffering a pulmonary embolism in June. The Chargers have no timetable for his return and are preparing for a potentially extended absence.

Sam Tevi and Trent Scott have been playing the two tackle spots, flip-flopping sides throughout camp.

Lamp and Dan Feeney have received the majority of snaps at left guard, with Feeney also playing center as a possible backup to Pouncey. Michael Schofield remains the right guard.

“At some point,” coach Anthony Lynn said, “we’re going to lock them in and say, ‘This is what you are.’”

Regardless of how the pieces line up, the offensive front will be compromised until Okung can return. He’s a two-time Pro Bowler and nine-year veteran.

“He’s one of the best left tackles in football,” Pouncey said. “So when you don’t have him out there, you can see the difference. But it’s good for the young guys right now. … They get to work against the first-team guys. … These guys need to take advantage of this because it doesn’t come along often.”

Finally fully healthy, Lamp is among the Chargers this summer trying to seize an opportunity.

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“We’re just excited to see what he can do,” Pouncey said. “As long as he’s healthy, I think he’s going to help our football team win a lot of games this year.”

Gordon still MIA

Lynn had nothing to report on the holdout of Melvin Gordon. The coach said said he hasn’t spoken to the running back since last week.

“When camp started, I mean, my kids haven’t heard from me since,” Lynn joked. “I’m pretty busy right now.”

Gordon missed the first six days of on-field work and is subject to a fine of up to $40,000 per day.

Asked if he had a message to share with Gordon, Lynn smiled and said: “We love you. We miss you.”

Aches & pains

Nasir Adderley, a second-round pick battling for time at free safety, walked off the field early in practice because of hamstring soreness. He missed time during the offseason program with a hamstring injury.

Tight end Virgil Green and safety Jaylen Watkins also have been slowed. Green has “a mild strain,” Lynn said, though he wouldn’t specify which part of his body. Watkins has general soreness.


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