by Marty Caswell
Following the first day of the Chargers’ off-season workouts, the team made six of their players available to the media, including their most important free-agent signings, King Dunlap and Brandon Flowers. Danny Woodhead, recovering from a broken leg suffered in week two, made an appearance as did Jacoby Jones, Stevie Johnson and Jimmy Wilson.
But who was not available on Monday afternoon just continues to add speculation to the future of the most important player on the team, Philip Rivers.
Rivers was at the facility working out and King Dunlap says he was as fired up as ever, but with the NFL draft just 10 days away and the team refusing to put an end to the trade rumors, it’s impossible not to draw conclusions as to why he wasn’t available, nor was his head coach Mike McCoy.
Instead, the players all answered questions about their off-season: Brandon Flowers became a first-time father to a little girl in February, Danny Woodhead says he’s working out and doing everything after suffering a broken leg, Stevie Johnson spent a lot of time watching Rivers highlights on YouTube after he signed in San Diego and former Point Loma safety Jimmy Wilson continues a remarkable turnaround from time spent in prison.
To a man, no one was distracted about the increasingly real possibility of the team moving to Los Angeles, “They’ve got people in the right place and they’ll take care of it if it happens,” said Dunlap.
Woodhead said the possibility of a move to Los Angeles that’s seemingly gripped every Chargers fan, hasn’t really been on his mind.
“I haven’t done a lot of thinking about that. I’m a day-by-day guy, I’m an in the present guy, I’m trying to focus on getting ready for 2015. I’m signed up to play football and I’m focused on that.”
But the future of their undisputed leader of what is currently the San Diego Chargers is another story.
Brandon Flowers says he’s been very preoccupied being a new father to his two-month old daughter Brynn, and wasn’t up to speed on the latest Rivers trade rumors.
“Right now, Philip’s in the building, this is our quarterback, a guy that I’ve respected for so many years and until that change, I can’t think of Philip in another way. This guy works hard, he’s here every day, he’s going to practice like a champ, and that’s what I’m going off of.”
Dunlap spoke flatly when asked about the possibility of trading Rivers.
“That’s our quarterback. That’s our quarterback.”
Rivers for his part, told Darren Smith last month that the Chargers re-signing Dunlap, who brought stability and toughness at left tackle following the disastrous Jared Gaither was the team’s biggest priority. Listen to Rivers’ interview with Darren HERE
Dunlap smiled when told of Rivers comments and said “He’s a big reason why I re-signed with the Chargers.”
“He’s an all pro quarterback. He’s one of the elite quarterbacks in the league. What he brings, not a lot of guys have. Him being the guy he is, we’re all out there working for him to help him do his job better, especially up front. If we do our job as offensive linemen, it helps him do his job a lot better and he can be the elite quarterback that he is and produce like he does and has been for the last ten years.”
Perhaps we’re all jumping the gun that the Chargers would really trade the heart and the soul of their team over the last decade to the Tennessee Titans for the chance to draft the extremely talented but unproven Marcus Mariota. And to be fair, every player drafted, including Rivers, was unproven at the moment they were drafted. But teams don’t trade elite quarterbacks often, if ever.
Dunlap says it is “very” tough to find an elite quarterback in the National Football League.
“When you have one, you know it and you try to keep him protected and keep him healthy as long as you can.”
Making Dunlap their off-season priority and signing left guard Orlando Franklin goes a long way towards protecting Rivers, but it’s hard to point out the last time the Chargers built around their elite, franchise quarterback and I’ll maintain until the very end that it has played as big a part in Rivers telling the team he will not sign a contract extension with them at this time. Look no further than which wideouts were on the field in the Chargers last game of the 2014 season, a must-win against the Kansas City Chiefs. Or if you have time, ponder the list of offensive skill position players the Bolts have drafted in the first two rounds since Rivers became their quarterback.
Are we having this same conversation had the Chargers been able to sign Andre Johnson, whom they pursued, or Randall Cobb, who they also had interest in? We may not ever know.
And for the rest of Rivers’ teammates on the first day of workouts, it’s business as usual, getting to know each other and getting back into football shape.
“It hasn’t really affected us,” said Woodhead. “He’s on our team and he’s our quarterback and we definitely like having him as our quarterback. As far as I know, he’s still on the team, right? He’s elite at what he does. He’s one of the best in the league at his position. We’re fortunate to have him on the field on Sundays and we’re fortunate to have him working out on the field with us.”
“That’s the NFL. That’s part of things.”
Business as usual.
“Chris works really, really hard. He wants to be great at what he does and he watches a lot of film, even when he was a guard, he was always talking to Nick (Hardwick) watching lot of film, always talking to Philip and Kellen, the quarterbacks. The work he puts in, he puts in as much work if not more than some of the quarterbacks do.”
– Dunlap on why Chris Watt will be successful at center.
“It’s not crazy to hear because of the business we’re in. Anything can happen.”
– Brandon Flower on Philip Rivers’ trade rumors.