Chargers hold a festival at SoFi Stadium in the middle of camp

A young girl holds a pennant of quarterback Justin Herbert.
A young girl holds a pennant of quarterback Justin Herbert at the Chargers FanFest and open practice on Sunday in Inglewood.
(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

Justin Herbert hit Keenan Allen for a touchdown, Derwin James had a highlight defensive play and the field goal kicking was unsteady.

Yeah, the Chargers played a football game Sunday and a lot of familiar things happened.

This one, though, was different, the team making its debut in front of spectators at SoFi Stadium.

The open practice was staged in the middle of training camp and billed as a festival for fans, complete with a concert featuring The Offspring.

“You get in here for pregame and there are people waiting for you,” coach Brandon Staley said. “That made it feel a lot different for our guys. I think that level of focus, that level of energy, it kind of got our guys going right away.


“I’m so glad that we did this because this is so much different than training camp. It was so different than last year, and I think that adjustment is real.”

The Chargers played all eight of their home games a year ago in an empty stadium because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are scheduled to kick off the preseason at 7 p.m. Saturday against the Rams at SoFi.

Players enter SoFi Stadium during the Chargers Fan Fest and open practice on Sunday.
(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

The schedule Sunday simulated a game environment, the players going through an extended warmup and returning to the locker room before re-emerging with the traditional celebration of noise and smoke.

The team’s in-game entertainment crew even fired the cannon to mark touchdowns.

“It was just good to be back out there,” Herbert said. “Thank you to all the fans that showed up and supported us.”

Herbert connected with Jalen Guyton for a long gain early and later passed one yard to Allen for a touchdown during an 11-on-11 session.


The Herbert-to-Allen connection is expected to again be a staple for the Chargers. Last year Allen finished with 100 catches for 992 yards and eight touchdowns.

“He’s the best at what he does,” Herbert said. “He’s able to win just so many routes. His explosiveness, his IQ, his ability to kind of defeat the leverage of the defender … I think he knows it [all] as well as anyone.”

Fans enjoy a day at SoFi Stadium for the Chargers Fan Fest and open practice.
(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

The lowlight for the Chargers’ young quarterback came during the next 11-on-11 period when he was intercepted by James, the team’s dynamic safety and a 2018 All-Pro.

There was confusion before the snap, with the play clock running out. The offense was permitted to continue anyway, and Herbert’s attempt down the right sideline for Austin Ekeler ended up in James’ hands.

Herbert afterward said he believed he would have been sacked.

“I think I was considered down,” he said with a slight smile. “So I don’t know if it counted or not.”

Said Staley: “I think that I trust Justin Herbert. So what he says, I’m probably going to go with right now. The good news today is no matter what that result was, it was good for the Chargers.”

The afternoon ended up having just about everything a normal NFL Sunday features, including boos. Those were directed at Michael Badgley, the incumbent kicker who is competing to keep his job.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert throws a pass at SoFi Stadium during the Fan Fest and open practice on Sunday.
(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

Badgley missed three times — from 41, 49 and 51 yards — out of six attempts during his field-goal period, each errant try drawing more scorn from the fans. He struggled from distance last season, missing nine of 19 kicks from 40 yards and beyond.

Tristan Vizcaino missed twice — from 38 and 49 yards — during his first six attempts and also heard a few boos.

Badgley finished the day seven for 10 and Vizcaino 8 for 10. Both made 55-yarders. The Chargers also have a third kicker in camp, Alex Kessman, who made three of seven attempts.

“What we wanted to do today was make sure all three of them got an opportunity to compete and make sure that they had a consistent holder [and] consistent snapper, so we could evaluate them accordingly,” Staley said. “And so, you know, we’re at the beginning of that [competition].”


Center Corey Linsley (foot) and linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. (ankle) left practice early and did not return. Staley indicated both likely could have come back and played had this been a regular game.

A spectator crowd surfs during a performance by The Offspring at the Charger Fan Fest on Sunday at SoFi Stadium.
(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)