SAN DIEGO (AP) -Less than four months after having a ligament in his right knee replaced, Philip Rivers was dropping back and throwing passes.
Granted, it was glorified touch football and the San Diego Chargers quarterback didn't have defenders in his face. But the quarterback had no intention of missing the opening practice of minicamp on Friday morning, the first time the Chargers were back on the field together since losing the AFC championship game to the New England Patriots.
``It gets sore and stiff, but it's all there,'' Rivers said about his anterior cruciate ligament, which was replaced on Jan. 23.
Rivers tore the ligament during the Chargers' 28-24 playoff win at Indianapolis on Jan. 13, then needed arthroscopic surgery to get through the AFC title game the following Sunday, which the Chargers lost 21-12. He had the ligament replaced three days later.
``Obviously the surgery went well and then I think we've done a good job in rehab to this point,'' Rivers said. ``I've got a ways to go before I would say, 'Yeah, let's go get a game.' Could I do it? Sure. But I've got three more whole months. The concern naturally, is training camp. I don't see that as a question mark.''
LaDainian Tomlinson, the two-time NFL rushing champion, went through individual drills and said he's 100 percent recovered from a sprained left knee that limited him to two carries and one catch in the loss at New England.
``It's a start,'' said Tomlinson, who didn't need surgery. ``We both wanted to come out and get some work in. So I think we're both happy with just coming out here and running around.''
Rivers will be limited the rest of the weekend, when the offense goes against the defense. ``I'll be out of there, with those guys rushing and falling all around you. Obviously I don't want to be in there with that.''
Rivers probably will wear a brace the whole season.
``Fortunately, it's my plant leg rather than that lead leg. That's usually the one that's the most concern. The brace, once you get comfortable with it, with my blazing speed, it's not going to hinder me too much,'' he joked.
Rivers said he's been ``conservative aggressive'' with his rehab.
``I want to do what's right, obviously,'' he said. ``They know I want to go, go, go, whenever I can. I've been smart. I really have. I'm not going to do anything silly that can cause a setback for me and potentially hurt the team, or hurt us.
``I'm at the stage now where you've got to push it a little bit. Your knee and all your joints have to get used to feeling all you movements again. You kind of re-teach your knee what your body does. You have to be somewhat aggressive, but at the same time, be smart. Be choosey. There's no reason to take every rep and do every throw just to beat it in the ground. There's that fine line between being too patient and moving on.''
So how tough, really, was the first practice?
``We beat air today, and this afternoon we'll go against each other,'' coach Norv Turner said.
Turner said it's a bonus that Rivers is on the field.
``I'm trying to slow him down and he's doing the things he's doing because he's ready to do them,'' Turner said. ``He's been doing this for the last three weeks, dropping back and throwing the ball. It's good for him to get some work.''
Rivers and Tomlinson aren't the only Chargers coming off injuries. Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates had surgery to repair the dislocated left big toe that slowed him during the playoffs, and center Nick Hardwick had surgery in mid-March on his sprained right foot.
While Hardwick has a long rehab ahead of him, Gates said he should be able to test his toe in a few weeks. Gates isn't sure how ready he'll be by the start of training camp.
Turner said he sensed that the Chargers couldn't be hungrier about sticking around longer in the postseason than they did last season.
Rivers agreed.
``I think we made great strides,'' he said. ``Obviously that's not something we want to be remembered by, is the team that won a few playoff games and got beat in the AFC championship. But we've raised the bar there and I think now obviously our goal is to set it as high as it can be.''

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