SAN DIEGO – After Thursday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers, Chargers general manager Tom Telesco stood at the entrance of the team’s locker room and shook the hands of every player as they made their way off the field.
Despite a tough 41-6 loss on the final preseason game, Telesco still managed to issue a “good job” to players or give them an encouraging pat on their shoulder pads.
Telesco knew the end of preseason signaled the time when deeper cuts would have to be made, facing a deadline of 3 p.m. Aug. 31 to set the regular season roster to 53 players.
“The preseason is behind us now; we’ve got a tough decision to make to get to the 53,” said head coach Mike McCoy.
On Friday, the team released 11 players, including tackle Max Starks, who was brought in to compete for the starting left tackle position.
Starks admitted Thursday that his performance against the 49ers was one of his “worst games as a pro.”
“I thought I had a pretty solid training camp,” Starks said. “And obviously when the opportunity presented itself to actually play in a game I thought I did pretty decent. I gave up one sack in Chicago on protection, but I mean other than that, given the amount of plays that I had…I thought I did pretty solid up until tonight.
“It is what it is,” he added.
But the desire to play is still there for the 31-year-old Starks, a third-round draft pick in 2004 by the Pittsburgh Steelers where he spent his career up until last year and was a starter in 2005 at right tackle when the team won the Super Bowl.
“That’s why I hold myself personally responsible,” he said. “I’m not trying to blame anybody else. I think once you start playing and you’re not taking it upon yourself to get better or do what’s necessary to improve that’s when the desire is gone. But the desire is definitely still there and I love competing at this level.”
McCoy said there was still meaning in the final preseason game despite not playing most of the starters.
“It’s another day, another game for us to evaluate the football team. We obviously sat the guys that we know are going to be the starters and that we know a lot about, but there’s some positions that we got to make some decisions as a staff and as an organization in the next 24 hours of what direction we want to head in certain positions.
“It was an opportunity for a lot of guys to get a lot of work. And some stepped up, some kind of stubbed their toes from time to time, but that’s the game of football. That’s why you have four preseason games.”
Second year defensive end Kendall Reyes said that he’s excited about getting ready for the first game of the season against Houston, but that preseason is a necessary part of football.
“It’s when the team gets together, spend a lot of time together and we grow as a team every year,” said Reyes.
He was one of those players that sat on Thursday.
Having gone through team cuts last year, he said that it’s a tough situation to know that some of the guys he’s been around from training camp through preseason wouldn’t be there in the coming days.
“It’s a part of the game,” he said. “You just try to keep your head up about the situation.”
McCoy said the team will always try to get better every day. “It’s going to be an ongoing process throughout the entire season, not just during the offseason, during training camp, during the preseason games. You’re always looking to improve your football team.”
The Chargers begin their 2013 campaign against the Houston Texans at Qualcomm Stadium on Monday Night Football Sept. 9.
On Saturday, the Chargers released 11 more players to finalize their 53-man roster:
Nick Becton, tackle
Frank Beltre, linebacker
Ben Cotton, tight end
Logan Harrell, defensive end
Michael Hill, running back
Josh Johnson, cornerback
Thomas Keiser, linebacker
Robert Meachem, wide receiver
David Molk, center
David Rolf, tight end
McCoy issued the following statement in a press release: “I thanked all of the players for giving us their 100 percent effort and dedication. They all worked extremely hard and gave us everything they had.
“Days like this are never easy. I have been in their shoes. I was cut five times by five different teams. I feel for these men and wish them the best of luck.”