Keenan Allen is super inspired by ‘growing’ attendance at Chargers’ voluntary camp

Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen smiles during a news conference after voluntary drills Wednesday.
Star receiver Keenan Allen could not help but smile when he saw all the Chargers who showed up for voluntary workouts.
(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

The Chargers staged another media availability during organized team activities Wednesday.
Theoffseason program will continue for two more weeks before finishing with mandatory minicamp June 14-15.

Highlights from Costa Mesa:

Almost all hands on deck: After making plenty of headlining additions over the last few months, the Chargers added another key piece when Joey Bosa showed up on the practice field.

The four-time Pro Bowl edge rusher typically waits for minicamp to join the offseason program, but not this year. His early arrival could be an indication of the team’s “growing” — wide receiver Keenan Allen’s word — culture.


The Chargers continue to enjoy impressive attendance for their workouts. The only prominent player who has yet to be seen during any of media-viewing portions of OTAs is running back Austin Ekeler.

The Chargers introduced Khalil Mack on Tuesday and the linebacker and coach Brandon Staley recalled how the two did special things together in Chicago.

On Wednesday, those involved included veteran holdovers such as Allen and Mike Williams, along with big-name additions Khalil Mack, J.C. Jackson and Kyle Van Noy.

“Those are guys who you don’t expect to be at OTAs,” Allen said. “When we all show up, come out to practice, come to the meetings, it lets you know we got something special going on.”

Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi credited Brandon Staley for the strong participation rate. Staley is entering his second season in his first head-coaching stint.

“Brandon’s done a very good job of building that team culture here,” Lombardi said. “It’s a good group of guys. It was last year, too. But adding those veterans that have a lot of pelts on the wall, we’re very excited about it.”

Veteran sees a differently looking roster: Allen, the longest-tenured Charger, is entering his 10th season and has made the Pro Bowl after each of the last five. Still, he just turned 30 in April and is on an extension that runs through 2024.

“I feel young,” he said. “I feel as strong as I’ve ever been, especially in the weight room. I’m lifting more weight than I ever have. Just trying to feed off these young guys at this point.”

While acknowledging the improved culture, Allen also said glancing around the practice field confirms the idea that this is a new era for the franchise.

Rams superstar Aaron Donald said he would be “at peace” if a new contract could not be worked out and he retired from football.

“I wouldn’t say it feels different because the competitor I am I always feel like we’re going to go 16-0 and win the Super Bowl,” he said. “But look differently? Absolutely. Just every position has All-Pros … superstar talent.”

Canton-bound Keenan? During his time with the Chargers, Allen has appeared in four playoff games but none since after the 2018 regular season.

Now, he finds himself on a team many observers are touting as a Super Bowl contender, mostly because of Pro Bowl quarterback Justin Herbert and a defense that has been both rebuilt and restocked.

Allen was asked about the significance of the Lombardi Trophy being perhaps the one piece missing from his career. He offered an interesting answer.

“Absolutely,” Allen said. “I think that helps you get into that gold jacket, you know, faster.”

That, of course, was a reference to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Allen said winning a Super Bowl also brings more respect to a player’s resumé.

The Chargers' Jamal Davis II, left, talks with Joey Bosa during practice Wednesday.
The Chargers’ Jamal Davis II, left, talks with Joey Bosa during practice Wednesday. Bosa doesn’t usually come to voluntary camps, suggesting a change in culture for the team.
(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

Putting the ‘Oh!’ in offense? The Chargers are entering their second season with the same offensive coordinator/play caller, quarterback and quarterbacks coach, suggesting improvement via continuity for a unit that was top five in 2021.

Lombardi said these OTAs are less stressful as a result since so many players are familiar with the terminology and basics. He also explained that Herbert’s capacity is expanding.

“Justin’s bandwidth is a lot wider for everything,” Lombardi said. “So we can focus on some Football 202-type of stuff rather than just getting in and out of the huddle.”

He said Herbert no longer has to burden himself with matters such as making sure the play call is being relayed correctly. Now, the young quarterback can begin reading defenses quicker.

The Rams and NFL paid $790 million to settle a suit with St. Louis over the team’s relocation to L.A., and every team is helping to foot the bill.

Lombardi said he has learned to appreciate over the last year the intensity and pursuit of perfection Herbert begins daily. He also praised Herbert’s relentless mental drive.

“His stamina for studying and working at it is impressive,” Lombardi said. “[Quarterbacks coach] Shane Day works the heck out of him and he never gets tired. That’s a huge positive.”

Regarding right tackle: One position that has remained largely unchanged is right tackle, where Storm Norton returns as the starter after filling in for injured Bryan Bulaga most of last season.

Trey Pipkins, a third-round pick in 2019, will challenge Norton for the job in training camp. There are other ways the Chargers could go, but for now it appears to be between Norton and Pipkins.

“The great thing about that position is it’s probably a position where people can improve more year to year than maybe some other spots,” Lombardi said. “There’s so much technique involved, understanding where your help is, your set patterns.”

The Chargers are one of eight franchises participating in the Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative in 2022, the NFL announced.

Lombardi said the Chargers were encouraged by Pipkins’ play last season when he did get on the field. Pipkins started one game at left tackle and one at right.

“We feel like we’re going to be very improved at that position coming out of training camp,” Lombardi said, “whether it’s Storm making improvements or whether Trey shows that he’s the guy. We think that we’ll be a lot better at right tackle.”

Tillery is back: Defensive tackle Jerry Tillery returned after being absent last week during media viewing.

Other than Ekeler, the most prominent players not present Wednesday were tight ends Gerald Everett and Donald Parham Jr. Linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. also wasn’t on the field as he continues to rehabilitate from ankle surgery.