Chargers’ prized rookie Jerry Tillery takes big step forward following surgery

Jerry Tillery participates in a drill during the start of training camp on July 29, 2019.
Jerry Tillery participates in a drill during the start of training camp on July 29.
(Kyusung Gong / Associated Press)

An otherwise routine training camp practice took on significance for the Chargers with the most basic of acts: a player slipping shoulder pads over his head.

Jerry Tillery, the team’s first-round pick, advanced another step Sunday in his return from offseason shoulder surgery by participating in pads for the first time.

“Today was the first day, because he was involved more, where he stood out in a team situation, where you saw flashes of it,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said of the rookie defensive tackle. “‘Oh, OK, we just saw a flash of Jerry Tillery.’ ”

Drafted with the 28th overall selection in April, Tillery has been limited after sustaining a shoulder injury in his final season at Notre Dame. He is expected to participate this week when the Chargers host New Orleans for a pair of joint practices in Costa Mesa. Tillery talked as if he’ll play when the teams meet in a preseason game Sunday in Carson.

“I’m feeling great and moving even better,” said Tillery, whose most recent game was the Fighting Irish’s 30-3 loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals in December. “It’ll be a lot of fun getting back to it.”

This training camp has represented a sputtering start for the Chargers’ top two draft picks. Safety Nasir Adderley, taken in the second round, remains limited by a hamstring issue that dates to the spring. Adderley continued to work Sunday along with a collection of other rehabbing players on a field adjacent to where the healthier Chargers practiced.

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Coach Anthony Lynn has offered no specific timetable for Adderley’s return, but over the weekend indicated the rookie was progressing and could be back soon.

The Chargers’ other five 2019 draft picks played Thursday in their 17-13 preseason-opening loss at Arizona. Among the night’s highlights, linebacker Drue Tranquill (fourth round) intercepted a pass and quarterback Easton Stick (fifth round) scored a touchdown.

Tillery, an athletic 6 feet 6 and 295 pounds, projects as an immediate contributor along the defensive front. He has played inside, though Bradley said the Chargers “like him on the edge.”

The day he was drafted, Tillery said he was comfortable playing anywhere on the defensive line.

Chargers rookie linebacker Drue Tranquill paid tribute to former Cardinals safety Pat Tillman after making an interception in Thursday’s preseason game.

Aug. 10, 2019

“We’re just trying to bring him along at a good pace here and see how he handles each day and how he’s responding,” Bradley said. “When you talk to him, he feels like he was ready awhile ago. We’re just making sure we’re bringing him along [slowly].”


Bradley called Tillery “very detailed” and “a very prideful person.” He said the biggest obstacle right now is physical, Tillery having invested plenty of time in film study and the mental side of preparation.

“You never got it,” Tillery said. “I feel like I’m getting better everyday. I’m better than I was yesterday. It’s a process of just being the best me I can be.”

Melvin Ingram and Melvin Gordon update

The Chargers are into their third week of training camp without Melvin Gordon, who is holding out because of a contract dispute.

Edge rusher Melvin Ingram said he regularly talks to the running back, who’s “like my brother.”

“We talk about life. We talk about football. We talk about everything,” Ingram said. “It’s cool.”

Ingram was asked how much he and the Chargers want Gordon in camp, a delicate subject for players who have to balance what’s best for the team with what’s best for one of their teammates.

“I want him here,” Ingram said. “But you can’t really speak on that business. I’m here to play football. I’m not here to discuss Melvin’s deal. … That’s not my business. My business is to play football.”

Jones stands out

Bradley pinpointed tackle Justin Jones as someone who stood out defensively in the preseason opener.


Entering his second year, Jones has been one of the most talked about Chargers in training camp. He was a third-round pick in 2018.

Ingram has been impressed.

“You see him do moves at times and the way he practices and you’re like, ‘He’s got a chance to be very special,’ ” Ingram said. “As camp goes on and as the season progresses, he’s going to show the world.”

Bradley also noted the play of Michael Davis, who is trying to nail down the starting cornerback job opposite Casey Hayward. Trevor Williams, another candidate for that spot, has missed the last two practices because of an undisclosed injury.


The Chargers will conduct their only night practice of training camp Monday at 7. … Ingram carried the ball once last season, in a goal-line situation against Oakland. He said he expects another carry this season. “Of course, that’s a given,” he said. “I’m definitely going to get one, for sure.”