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Playing in new SoFi Stadium should spark Chargers, says experienced Linval Joseph

Cars exit the COVID-19 testing site at The Forum, with SoFi Stadium in the background.
SoFi Stadium will be home to the Chargers and Rams starting this season.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Most of the Chargers will experience something once-in-a-lifetime this season when they play at SoFi Stadium.

For Linval Joseph, it instead will be third-time-in-barely-a-decade.

Joseph was a member of the New York Giants when they moved into New Meadowlands Stadium in 2010 and the Minnesota Vikings when they moved into U.S. Bank Stadium six years later.

The Chargers and Rams will share SoFi Stadium beginning next month, with the Chargers set to make their debut in the $5-billion facility Thursday with a scrimmage.

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“When you have a new stadium … you want to protect it,” Joseph said. “You want to make sure it’s your home. You want to instill in all the guys, ‘We gotta win at home. We got to start off right.’ It’s like another urge to get the job done.”

SoFi Stadium will open without fans at Rams and Chargers games because of the pandemic.

After relocating to Los Angeles in 2017, the Chargers played three seasons at what is now called Dignity Health Sports Park. They lost their first three and final three games there, finishing 12-12 overall.

Now, they’re readying to upgrade into a venue coach Anthony Lynn called “the best place to play football in the world.”

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“I’m excited to get there,” Joseph said. “See it, feel it and hopefully make some magic this year.”

The Chargers signed Joseph as a free agent in March, bringing in the veteran defensive tackle with hopes he can provide pressure up the middle to aid pass-rushing ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.

Joseph has 24 sacks and 525 tackles in a career that includes two Pro Bowl appearances. He also won a Super Bowl with the 2011 Giants.

At 6 feet 4, 329 pounds, Joseph began making an impression on his new teammates the moment he walked through the door of the Chargers’ training facility in Costa Mesa.

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He did this by simply filling that doorway.

Safety Rayshawn Jenkins said Joseph is built “like a mobile home.” Cornerback Casey Hayward called him “a truck.” Left tackle Sam Tevi likened Joseph to “a walking refrigerator” and “a running Coke machine.”

“He’s literally like a house in there,” Jenkins said. “You have to throw it over a house, if you’re the quarterback. We’re going to get a lot of batted balls and altered throws with him in there.”

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Along with Joseph’s size, the Chargers have been taken by his power, Bosa calling Joseph “probably the strongest human I’ve come across.”

In high school, he was a champion weightlifter and has been known to bench press 500 pounds.

“I have a combination of a lot of things,” Joseph said. “But as everybody’s saying, it’s my power, my quick twitch.”

At 31, he is the oldest player on a defense that mixes experience with youth and features depth throughout.

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The defense is expected to be the backbone of a team transitioning to a new offensive scheme after being built around quarterback Philip Rivers the last 14 years.

“We have some home-run hitters …” Joseph said. “Once they put everything together, it’s going to be scary. I’d say it that way. It will be scary if everything’s put together right.”

Taylor made

Among the many ways the Chargers offense will look different this season is the fact the quarterback won’t be as animated.

Rivers was known for his rather demonstrative leadership, often sprinting downfield to argue with an official or correct a teammate.

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Tyrod Taylor is not nearly that obvious, but Lynn said his softer nature shouldn’t be mistaken for a lack of leadership.

Chargers receiver Mike Williams could miss the season opener because of a shoulder injury suffered trying to make a diving catch without pads on Sunday.

“He’s a man that doesn’t say a whole lot,” Lynn explained. “But people respect the heck out of him because of what he does. If you just watch him, he leads by example. I think that’s very powerful.”

Veteran tight end Virgil Green said Taylor’s commitment is clear in how hard he works, often doing thingssuch as running extra sprints after practice.

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“A lot of quarterbacks you don’t see them busting it in the weight room,” Green said. “But Tyrod is that guy … I believe in what I can do in the weight room, but I don’t want to get involved with Tyrod and his core workout.”

Etc.

Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. returned to practice Tuesday after missing several days because of an unspecified leg injury. … The Chargers will be limited to a walk-through Wednesday in advance of their scrimmage, which is set to begin at 1 p.m. Thursday.


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