The Chargers began voluntary workouts Monday, holding the first practice of a nine-week offseason program. This being “Phase One” under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, players are limited to mostly working out with the strength and conditioning coaches for two weeks and aren’t yet allowed on the field. Though the workouts aren’t mandatory, most of the team attends.
Here are some news and notes from Day One:
You-Tube For The Win:
Before Stevie Johnson could call himself a San Diego Charger, before he wore powder blue and a gold lightning bolt on his helmet, he would watch videos of Philip Rivers on YouTube.
“Who doesn’t watch the top tier quarterbacks?” the wide receiver said Monday. “How [Rivers] throws the ball — the touch, the accuracy.
“I know Eddie Royal was a sweet receiver here. Just imagining myself as #11 and [Rivers] throwing to me …You play it out in your mind. As I’m watching him, [I’d think] how would my route be. I’d see him throwing a slant to Keenan, and I’d try and time it out.”
Johnson said he would tell himself, “Man, I wish I could play down there.”
That wish is now reality. Johnson, who signed with San Diego in the offseason after one season with the 49ers and six with Buffalo, said he “only thought about San Diego” once he knew he was leaving San Francisco. Now, Johnson will acclimate himself to a new quarterback and work to develop chemistry, something he’s had to do several times in the past.
“In previous years, I wouldn’t communicate as much with the quarterback,” Johnson admitted. “I just thought you get out on the practice field and do the routes they say. Over the past few years, my communication skills with the quarterback has been good.
“The time [to develop chemistry] could be within a year, half a year, or within a few weeks. Depends on how much you’re talking on the field, during routes, and letting him know how you’re going to do things. That’s all on me, to present that to him.”
He’s looking forward to seeing that chemistry pay off at Qualcomm Stadium.
“I played here a few years ago and I was so mad I couldn’t get in the end zone,” Johnson said. “I always wanted to score at the Q. Now I’m here, and I’m ready to do it.”
Flowers A Father:
This offseason was a little different for cornerback Brandon Flowers, who became a first-time father in February to a little girl named Brynn.
“I didn’t have too much of an offseason to relax and travel like I usually do,” he said. “It was pretty much ‘daddy day care’ but I enjoyed it.”
His daughter came into the world just a few weeks before free agency, which he said had an effect on how much he wanted to test the market.
“It was a lot, with a lot of teams calling and seeing if you wanted to go on visits, but you don’t want to be away from your daughter,” he acknowledged. “There was a lot on my plate. That’s why I didn’t want to get into free agency too much. I already knew where I wanted to be, so if we could just agree to something I felt like I deserved, it was an easy choice for me.”
That choice resulted in a four-year contract with the Chargers worth $36 million, which he signed in March.
Now in his second year with San Diego, Flowers said he feels an added responsibility to mentor the younger defensive backs — and to stay healthy.
“I feel like last year, I don’t want to say like we let down the team, but — me, Jason [Verrett], Shareece [Wright], Jahleel [Addae], having the potential we had, no one was healthy all at the same time. I felt like it kind of handicapped our team.
“I would love to just have Jason Verrett out there with me the whole season this year. This guy is electric. You need a guy like that on the field. Nothing is gonna get him more prepared or get him better as a player than experience.”
Speaking Of DB’s…
Former Point Loma High School standout Jimmy Wilson is back in his hometown, this time playing for the Chargers.
“It means everything to me,” the defensive back said. “God has been so good to me and the fact that he brought me full circle, back to where I started playing football and started creating my dream, is just amazing.”
Wilson, who started 21 of 60 games in the four years he spent with the Miami Dolphins, said his versatility will be an asset in San Diego’s defense.
“Just seeing film on some of the guys here, I think I fit in well with the DB’s, just because everyone is interchangeable and you have to learn a lot of positions here,” he added. “That’s the same thing I’ve been doing in Miami — nickel, corner, safety. I’ve been blessed to play a lot of football in the last four years and I think I can contribute to this team and to this defense.”
Jones’n For Dancin:
Return specialist and wide receiver Jacoby Jones said he’s already getting his dance moves ready for next season.
“I keep a couple dances in my pocket,” said Jacoby, who is known for his touchdown dances and who finished third when he appeared on “Dancing with the Stars” in 2013. “I got a few new ones, so I’m ready to do that. I go in the night before [the game], in my hotel room, and I practice. I’ll have at least three [dances] on hand, so whichever one comes to my mind when I get there, I still have two more left.”
Jones said he’s looking forward to contributing in an offense that shares the ball, noting that in 2014, there were four receivers with more than 700 yards each.
“That goes to show you, I don’t care what number you wear or who you are, if you’re open you’re gonna get the ball,” he said.
Y’all Are Big Men:
Left tackle King Dunlap, who stands about 7-feet tall, sees the potential in having the newly signed, six-foot-seven guard/tackle Orlando Franklin on the offensive line with him — especially when it comes to deceiving defenses with San Diego’s running backs.
“It’s hard to find them when they’re running behind us,” Dunlap said. “You got two big bodies like that with two little guys … when they get in there and hide behind us, you got to look through us or around us to see them and by the time you find them, they’re usually gone. It definitely has an advantage.”
Dunlap, who locked up a four-year, $28 million dollar contract in February, said he’s been working to keep his weight down.
“In the offseason I gain a lot of weight, so I’m trying to keep it a little bit lower so it’s not so hard to get off once I do get back into working out.
“I’m a big eater. Being from Tennessee, we always have cookouts and family outings. It was a little rough this offseason, but I controlled myself,” he said, laughing.
Woodhead Wants To Move On:
Running back Danny Woodhead, who suffered a season-ending injury to his fibula and right ankle in Week 3 of last season, said his injury is “the least of his concerns right now.”
“I’m doing very good,” Woodhead said. “I’m working out, doing everything. My main concern is the same as its always been: routes, mental aspect of game. I’m worried about football things. I’m not worried about the leg.”
Although many draft experts speculate that the Chargers will take a running back in the first or second round of the draft, general manager Tom Telesco has also acknowledged that he thinks the current running back corps could perform successfully (without any additions). Woodhead agrees.
“We definitely feel confident in what we can do — Let’s put it that way,” he said. “But if that’s something we’re going to do, is draft a running back, that’s what the decision is and they think it’s best for the team.
Rumors, Rumors, Rumors:
None of the players that talked to the media Monday acknowledged much having to do with the rumors of the Chargers possibly playing in Los Angeles in 2016 or the idea of Philip Rivers leaving the team. Questions were met with the usual “just concentrating on this year” and “haven’t paid attention to any of that” answers.
–Annie Heilbrunn (TWITTER: @annieheilbrunn)