|L.T.: Super Bowl-caliber Chargers can't look too far ahead|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 28 July 2007 13:54|
The Chargers went through their first full-squad workouts of training camp on Saturday knowing that many of their fans won't be satisfied with anything short of a Super Bowl victory by a lineup that's generally considered the NFL's most talented.
The players, under new coach Norv Turner, expect the same thing.
A lot of people did last season, too, before the Chargers tripped all over themselves in losing 24-21 to the New England Patriots in the second round of the playoffs. It was a stunning finish for a team that went an NFL-best 14-2 behind league MVP LaDainian Tomlinson and had 11 Pro Bowlers and five All-Pros.
Were the Chargers looking too far ahead?
``I think honestly we were kind of looking past New England,'' said reigning NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson, who's always been as brutally honest as he is tough to tackle.
Tomlinson said the top-seeded Chargers figured there was a good chance they'd be playing the No. 2-seeded Baltimore Ravens, a matchup that would have been in the AFC championship game.
On Oct. 1, the Chargers turned conservative and coughed up a late lead, losing 16-13 at Baltimore.
Neither team survived its playoff opener, though. The Ravens lost to eventual Super Bowl champion Indianapolis the day before the Chargers were ushered out by the Patriots.
``I think that was a situation where we wanted to kind of avenge our loss,'' Tomlinson said. ``I would say we probably were looking past New England a little bit, but we shouldn't have been, because as great of a team as they are, and with us being back in the playoffs and not very experienced, we shouldn't have been looking past anyone.''
The Chargers, who'd gone 8-0 at home in the regular season, blundered their way to four turnovers against New England after committing only 15 in the regular season. Punt returner Eric Parker had a double muff, safety Marlon McCree fumbled when he tried to return an interception rather than just going down, and Philip Rivers was sacked and fumbled on a doomed fourth-and-11 call by then-coach Marty Schottenheimer.
``I think experience is the biggest teacher,'' Tomlinson said. ``You experience different things that happen in a big game and you make sure they don't happen again. Because you're already been through that, you know not to look past anyone.''
The Chargers are 0-2 in the playoffs in Tomlinson's brilliant career. Overall, their postseason losing streak is four, starting with an embarrassing loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl following the 1994 season.
The Chargers will be tested immediately. They open at home against defending NFC champion Chicago, then travel to face the Patriots. They play Indianapolis and Baltimore in San Diego in the span of three weeks in November.
``Our expectations are really to win the championship,'' Tomlinson said. ``That's always our expectation. Realistically, we think we have a shot at it. Last year was a year that I think was a little more shocking to all of us because of what we did in the regular season, 14-2. You never expect to go 14-2 in the regular season.
``Last year was kind of a situation where we expected to win but we didn't know how much, and now we know we're an elite team. I would say that about five teams in the National Football League really have a chance of winning the whole deal.''
Pro Bowl linebacker Shawne Merriman, who had an NFL-high 17 sacks last year, said the Chargers are their own harshest critics.
``We don't have any pressure from the media, the fans or anybody,'' he said. ``We have pressure from each other.''
Tomlinson, meanwhile, is coming off a monster season in which he set NFL records with 31 touchdowns and 186 points, and won his first rushing title with 1,815 yards.
While fantasy geeks no doubt hope Tomlinson can duplicate those numbers, the running back simply wants to be consistent. He usually shoots for 20-some touchdowns, and 1,600 to 1,700 yards rushing.
``If you approach it that way, then I think as the season goes on like last year, it just kind of happens. You get on a roll, then all of a sudden you're looking at 31 touchdowns, and you're looking at 1,800 yards or something like that,'' he said.
Turner, who replaced the fired Schottenheimer, won't have his team in full pads until Monday afternoon.
Most starters are back. Wide receiver Craig Davis, the team's first-round draft pick, will see where he fits in with the young, undistinguished receiving corps. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie, the first-round pick a year ago, will compete with Drayton Florence for the starting job opposite Quentin Jammer.
Gone is the Oklahoma Drill, which Schottenheimer held during one of the first few days of camp.
``I forgot it already,'' Tomlinson said.