Chargers vow not to look ahead this season Print
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Friday, 25 July 2008 13:37
NFL Headline News

 SAN DIEGO (AP) -The San Diego Chargers seem to have learned the difference between hype and reality.
Even if they are good enough to get to the Super Bowl, they vow not to talk about it this summer.
``There was so much hype last year, and so much expectation, and all training camp it was 'Super Bowl,' and we weren't afraid to talk about it,'' quarterback Philip Rivers said Friday after the Chargers held their first full-squad practice of training camp.
``I fell in that trap, too. Not that we weren't focused, but it seemed like all the focus was on the ultimate goal. Subconsciously, we took some things for granted, maybe. Maybe we overlooked the meat and potatoes part of the deal, you know what I mean? We were looking ahead for the dessert.''
Last summer, the Chargers overlooked their playoff pratfall against New England and focused instead on their 14-2 regular-season record from 2006.
OK, so they did end up making it all the way to the AFC championship game in January before losing 21-12 to the Patriots. But things sure looked bleak when they started 1-3 and 5-5 in Norv Turner's first season as coach.
Outside linebacker Shawne Merriman doesn't buy the talk in some circles that it's the Chargers' turn to win it all.
``To tell you the truth, I don't think it's anybody's turn,'' Merriman said. ``You know, it's how hard you work for it, and in our case, finishing up how we want to finish. They always say the team that almost gets there last year should win it the next year. That's all good, but for us, we just look at it as something we've got to do.''
Expectations could be higher for the Chargers this year, provided that Rivers, running back LaDainian Tomlinson, tight end Antonio Gates and center Nick Hardwick all come back strong from injuries.
``It's tough, because whenever you look around at this team and see the kind of players we have, the first thing you want to say is 'Oh, this team's going to the Super Bowl,''' Merriman said. ``But that's what started us 1-3 last year, because we came into the season after a 14-2 season the season before, automatically assuming we were going to the Super Bowl. We're thinking the opposite this year. We're taking it one game at a time and having a faster start.''
In January, the Chargers won a playoff game for the first time in 13 years, beating Tennessee in the wild-card round. Then they eliminated defending Super Bowl champion Indianapolis on the road, although that victory was costly because Rivers and Tomlinson both sustained knee injuries. Rivers played in the AFC title game despite having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee six days earlier, but Tomlinson had only two carries before his sprained left knee forced him out.
Rivers had ligament replacement surgery three days after the loss to the Patriots. Tomlinson's injury didn't require surgery.
Rivers thinks the Chargers can handle the expectations better this year.
``Again, we have an understanding of what it really takes. We didn't know what it takes to play in an AFC championship game. We didn't know what it's like to go on the road and knock off the defending champs. But now we know, so when all these things come arising again, which we hope we get the opportunity again, then we've actually been through it. We're not just feeling our way through it. You know what it's going to be like. We'll have a clue.''
The Chargers won their last six regular-season games and two straight in the playoffs.
Rivers said his knee ``feels better than I could have imagined it. It's going to be really key to keep staying on top of it. I've been told by many people that know the deal that it's going to get tired if you let it. It's the strength. It'll run out of gas quicker. Just keep filling up the tank.''
Tomlinson said his knee is fine.
``The only expectation we have is to play as good as we can,'' said Tomlinson, the two-time NFL rushing champion. ``And we know that if we do that, we'll be in good shape.''
Gates continues to work out on the side as he recovers from a toe injury that required surgery. He hopes to be back for opening day.
Gates and Hardwick (foot surgery) were among four players placed on the active-physically unable to perform list on Friday. They remain on the 80-man roster but can't participate in practice until they pass a physical.
If they're not pulled from the list by the final roster cutdown on Aug. 30, they'll have to sit out the first six regular-season games. Gates probably has a better chance of being pulled from the list by Aug. 30 than does Hardwick.
Also on the list are fullback Andrew Pinnock and linebacker Anthony Waters, both recovering from knee injuries.
 

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