Nearly 10,000 showed at Qualcomm Stadium for FanFest on Saturday morning. Chargers alumni signed autographs and fans were entertained by a spirited practice. The offense and defense separated and circled the field in opposite direction before practice and gave high-fives to those sitting near the field. It was a special moment and sparked the feeling that football is finally back.
“Anytime you can come to the stadium it is good,” QB Philip Rivers said. “It is more of a game feel. We are five days from kicking off.”
What stood out: The offense frequently found the end zone in a short goal drill. RB Ronnie Brown (2), WR Vincent Brown (1) and RB Ryan Mathews (2) had TDs with the first-team. FS Eric Weddle knocked down a pass. QB Philip Rivers sneaked in a quick throw to WR Malcom Floyd at the conclusion of snaps dedicated to runs. Floyd then outran CB Greg Gatson (undrafted, Arkansas) for a long TD. Rivers applauded WR Vincent Brown for a diving catch on the sidelines for a long reception and then found Brown again on the next play. SS Corey Lynch (free agent, Buccaneers) had his best practice with two INTs and a pass defensed. Weddle surprisingly returned punts.
“I am not sure if [Weddle] will be returning punts,” coach Norv Turner said. “But he is getting reps in case we need someone for a fair catch, he can go in and do that.”
Position battles: Ks Nick Novak and Nate Kaeding are staging their own version of Annie Get Your Gun with the famous lyrics, “Anything you can do I can do better; I can do anything better than you." Kaeding was good from 46 and 49 yards. Novak was good from 46 and 48 yards. Novak's 46-yard kick was straight down the middle and reached the stands 10 yards behind the post. The two have gone seven for seven with kicks at Qualcomm Stadium during training camp. CB Shareece Wright (round three, 2010) continued to work with the first-team as the nickel back in third-down situations. CB Marcus Gilchrist (round two, 2010) came into camp as the favorite to win the nickel back job, but missed several practices this week and Wright has taken advantage of his opportunity.
Injury updates: OLB Larry English (hamstring) returned to practice, but only participated in team drills. This is typical for players to be eased back after missing several practices.
“It was good to have [English] back at be part of it,” Turner said. “He wants it so bad. There will be a time when he is completely healthy, and I am looking forward to it.”
This is considered to be a make-or-break year for the Chargers' 2009 first-round pick (No. 16 overall). English has finished the last two seasons on the injured reserve list with a foot injury. English has only played 16 games in three seasons and has just seven career sacks. English has spent so much time on the side practice field used for rehab; reporters have nicknamed the field “English Class.”
CB Antoine Cason (groin strain), LT Jared Gaither (back spasms), CB Marcus Gilchrist, WR Richard Goodman, WR Eddie Royal (leg), T Phil Trautwein, G Johnnie Troutman (pectoral) and QB Charlie Whitehurst (sore MCL) stretched, but did not participate in practice. Whitehurst is expected to miss the first two preseason games. Troutman and G/T Brandyn Dombrowski (foot, cyst) have yet to participate. The rest may return to practice next week, but are not likely to play in Thursday's preseason game against the Packers.
What's next: The Chargers will take Sunday off and return to practice Monday morning with a walk-through at Chargers Park. Fans are invited to attend Monday's full practice in the afternoon from 3:45 to 6:00 pm.