SAN DIEGO — The defensive units looked like they were having fun playing against the offense.
Defenders, veterans and rookies alike, exploded in a fury of excitement when rookie quarterback Brad Sorensen’s pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage during practice; intercepted passes were run back the other way to cheers as though a game had just been won.
That was all a part of what Coach Mike McCoy and the rest of the coaches wanted — to have some fun.
Since mid-May, McCoy has been watching for signs of his plans for the team to come into focus.
So far, McCoy said he’s been learning something about the team and the organization every day. “The players are working extremely hard; they’ve bought into change,” he said. “And that’s the key. That was the number one thing….
“They’ve done a great job not only on the field, but in the classroom…just buying into everything that we’re doing. That’s sometimes the hardest part, just getting them to buy in.”
He added that the team still has a long ways to go, but that they’re off to a good start.
“We’re going to take it one day at a time, and find the best 53 and go from there,” he said.
On Monday, one of the team’s latest of free agent signees, tackle Max Starks, got on the field for the first time. McCoy said Starks got a crash course in learning the play book last week. “The good thing is he was with coach (Ken) Whisenhunt in the past and he’s done a nice job,” he said.
Starks had worked with Whisenhunt, the Chargers new offensive coordinator, while they were with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
When practice started Monday, Starks said everything started to come clear, knocking off the rust after having not been on the field for the past five months.
He said of the new playbook that it was a little bit different, but also that there were a lot of similarities because of his time in Pittsburgh with Whisenhunt; the terminology between the offensive linemen, though, was one of the biggest nuances he has to get over.
Philip Rivers, who’s coming along with his own challenges in learning the new playbook, said he knew what you were going to get from a guy like Starks. He played left tackle for Rivers during his senior bowl appearance. “Senior Bowl is a lot of the reason why I’m standing here,” Rivers said. “So he did all right.”
Rivers called Starks a pro.
“As far as where he ends up and how he fits in, obviously that will play out in the next few months, but you know you’re getting a veteran and a pro who’s played both sides and is a good addition to the group.”
Starks played mostly with the second group, blocking for backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst during Monday’s practice. It’s likely that Starks will be competing for a starting job against King Dunlap, who was brought into the organization after playing the past five seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Though it’s early, Rivers said they’re still finding out who they are going to be as an offensive group. “You have a new offense and then you have a lot of guys who haven’t been together a whole lot, so I think our personality, our makeup, all of that is still kind of taking shape…that’s why this time of year is big.”
They’ll look back on camp to see what they’ve done best, he said, and then sculpt who they’re going to be.
With OTAs coming to a close this week, newly-signed Dwight Freeney has yet to appear in a Chargers’ uniform. Though, according to McCoy, that was something they knew would happen given Freeney’s “prior commitments.”
Mini-camp is expected to begin next week.