|Chargers return to Qualcomm after wildfires chase them out|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 26 October 2007 12:55|
Forced from their homes and practice fields by deadly wildfires that swept San Diego County, the Chargers did their best to block out the distractions.
``It's not hard. We play football. That's what we do,'' Pro Bowl fullback Lorenzo Neal said.
The Chargers will play the Houston Texans on Sunday afternoon as originally scheduled. The place and time had been in doubt because Qualcomm Stadium was being used as a major evacuation center.
Though several blazes still burned Friday, thousands of evacuees were trickling back to neighborhoods stripped bare, and Qualcomm was closed as an evacuation center.
Earlier in the week, officials discussed playing this game in Dallas or even Houston.
The Chargers players wanted it to be in San Diego, to serve as a diversion for all the county had gone through. After canceling practice Monday so players could take care of their families, the team bolted for Phoenix to practice Wednesday through Friday at the Arizona Cardinals' headquarters.
``If we could provide a little bit of relief, a 3 1/2-hour relief and a little bit of excitement and drama, hopefully that would help,'' said coach Norv Turner, who was among the estimated 46 players, coaches and other team employees who evacuated their homes.
``I don't want to say a football game is going to minimize what's happened there. We have a lot of players that have friends, neighbors, relatives that have lost everything they have. I can't imagine being in that position. I can't imagine what those people are going through.''
The Chargers canceled practice Monday so players could take care of their families. They flew to Phoenix on Tuesday night, then practiced for three days at the Arizona Cardinals' headquarters.
There was talk that the game would be moved to Dallas or even the Texans' home stadium.
Regardless, the Chargers knew the game would be played.
``We're coming off an off week,'' quarterback Philip Rivers said. ``We already had some time to get ready for them (Texans) before we've been here. Had this not been an off week, it could have been a little tougher, but we're going to be ready. We've made the best of this situation and we appreciate everybody who made this thing work.''
The Chargers (3-3) are coming off their bye week. They've won consecutive games following a stunning three-game losing streak.
Now they face the Texans (3-4), who've lost four of five games.
``An animal trapped in the corner will do anything to win,'' Chargers outside linebacker Shawne Merriman said. ``That's what it's almost like right now. They're trapped in the corner. Some things haven't gone their way and they'll practically do anything right now to win. That's better for us. It will make us a better team.''
The Chargers didn't know whether they were going to facing quarterback Matt Schaub or his backup, Sage Rosenfels. Schaub has a bruised hip and was listed as day-to-day.
``That's the NFL. One guy goes down and another guy steps right in and plays,'' Merriman said. ``We have to be prepared for whoever is in there. Obviously, we scouted both quarterbacks. Both of them can play, so we're just going to be prepared for whoever is taking the ball from the snap.''
Coach Norv Turner said the Chargers have seen enough of both quarterbacks.
``We're going to prepare for the whole football team,'' Turner said.
Coach Gary Kubiak said he'll make the decision on Schaub ``based strictly on if I think Matt can protect himself. If you can't go out there and move around and avoid the rush and make a play with your feet in this league, it's tough, so I've got to take a look at that and think if I think he has the ability to do that. So we'll see.''
This will mark the Chargers debut of receiver Chris Chambers, who was obtained in a trade with the Miami Dolphins during the bye week.
``Chris is ready to go,'' Turner said. ``The hardest thing isn't Chris knowing what to do and being in the right place and doing all those things, it's that chemistry that a quarterback and receiver have, those little things. The only thing that can get that caught up is time. Unfortunately we're going to be off a little bit but I believe Chris is going to give us some big plays, too.''