Kirwan: Notes from Chargers camp

SAN DIEGO — Some observations from a day at training camp with the San Diego Chargers:

  • QB Philip Rivers told me he put all incomplete passes from last season (all 167 of them) on a DVD and studied what went wrong. He said there were far too many easy completions to checkdown backs that fell to the ground because he wasn’t focused on putting the ball in the right place. He is determined to make those “touch” throws this season.
  • Rivers also made it clear that he has a contract right now and he is not going to let Eli Manning‘s deal creep into his mind as he prepares to get his team to the Super Bowl. I would not be surprised if he has a new deal before the season starts, but it will not be because he’s pushing for one.
  • The veteran players are impressed with rookie DE Vaughn Martin. He has already demonstrated first-step quickness and exceptional strength. “He doesn’t operate like a guy from a small Canadian college. He will help us this season,” one player said.
  • Look for a battle between Tim Dobbins and Kevin Burnett for the weak inside linebacker spot next to Stephen Cooper. Dobbins is not about to surrender to the former Dallas Cowboy. If nothing else, there is solid depth at the linebacker position.
  • Look for the Chargers to blitz the inside linebackers more this year in Ron Rivera‘s more aggressive scheme. As one ‘backer said, “When we play stationary quarterbacks there will be times when we bring the inside guys and either sack the QB or flush him out.” That sounds like a plan for JaMarcus Russell and Kyle Orton.
  • Don’t be surprised to see some defensive looks, especially on third downs, when rookie outside LB Larry English is on the field with Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips as the Chargers work on their own version of the fire-zone blitz scheme.
  • The Chargers are doing a nice job of mixing up their offensive line protection schemes — not so much to help OTs Marcus McNeil or Jeromey Clary, but more to confuse the pass rushers about where they might get a free rusher.
  • Undrafted rookie WR Charly Martin has been catching the attention of teammates with his ability to get open and catch the ball. He’s a long shot to make the team, but you can make a case he’s outplaying former first-round pick Buster Davis.
  • Every player I spoke with emphasized how important it is to get off to a fast start this season and the fact that RB LaDainian Tomlinson is participating in preseason games for the first time since 2005 has really driven home the point of what it takes to get some early wins.

– Pat Kirwan

Jets NT Jenkins back at practice

Jets Nose Tackle Kris Jenkins was back on the practice field Monday after missing two weeks with a strained left calf muscle.

Jenkins participated on a limited basis Monday as the Jets plan to ease him back into ptractice to avoid aggravating the injury.

Bulger to miss two weeks with fractured finger

Rams QB Marc Bulger is expected to miss two weeks after fracturing the pinkie finger in his throwing hand.

Kyle Boller is expected to start the Rams next preseason game, a matchup with the Atlanta Falcons this Friday.

Wyche: Titans confident, experienced

NFL.com senior writer Steve Wyche checks in from Titans training camp in Nashville and writes that the Titans are preparing for the upcoming season with a confidence and swagger they did not have last summer.

Among the things Wyche observes:

  • Tennessee still boasts one of the best offensive/defensive line combinations in the the league. The offensive line is still in tact, and the defensive line is not taking the departure of DT Albert Haynesworth lightly.
  • Running back LenDale White looks significantly faster after shedding 30 pounds in the offseason.
  • Wide receiver Nate Washington is looking to take advantage of opportunities he did not have in Pittsburgh.

McNabb says he could play alongside Vick

Eagles QB Donovan McNabb said he is not worried about losing playing time to Michael Vick. On Monday, he told reporters that the two quarterbacks could end up on the field at the same time at certain points this season. A smiling McNabb did not specify where he would line up in the scenario, but did drop some hints.

“I’ll be a receiver. I might be a tight end,” McNabb said. “You never know where I’ll be.”

Some other training camp notes from around the league:

  • Bills second-round pick safety Darius Byrd took the practice field for the first time Monday, providing some relief for a secondary that has temporarily lost veteran starters Bryan Scott and Drayton Florence to injuries in the last week.

Haley’s camp taking a toll on Chiefs veterans

RIVER FALLS, Wis. — New Chiefs coach Todd Haley is running one of the toughest and hardest-hitting training camps in the league.

The Chiefs have been in pads for all but one day since camp opened on Aug. 1. Veteran observers of the team say it’s the most hitting the Chiefs have done in camp since 1998, Marty Schottenheimer‘s final season as head coach.

However, the contact has taken its toll. Several players have been out with injuries, most notably veteran linebacker Zach Thomas, who missed his 11th day of practice today with a suspected injury to his left hamstring or quadriceps.

Thomas was one of four players who watched the workout while riding a stationary bike in a secluded area far from the field that Haley calls “No Man’s Land.” It was the smallest gathering there since camp began.

– Vic Carucci

Chiefs’ Johnson appears fast after dropping weight

RIVER FALLS, Wis. — Running back Larry Johnson reported to Chiefs’ training camp at 222 pounds, about 13 pounds lighter than his consistent weight through the first six years of his NFL career.

The weight loss shows in his speed and explosiveness. Johnson removed most of his bulk from his upper body, while concentrating on adding strength to his legs.

– Vic Carucci

Chiefs will camp closer to home next summer

RIVER FALLS, Wis. — The Kansas City Chiefs are beginning their final week of training camp here, and when they depart for Friday night’s preseason game to face the Vikings in nearby Minneapolis, they’ll be gone for good.

Beginning next summer, the Chiefs will hold camp on the campus of Missouri Western State University, which puts them much closer to Kansas City.

The move is part of the Chiefs’ contribution of $13 million in tax-credit money to Missouri Western for the construction of an indoor practice facility. The tax credit came from the renovation of Arrowhead Stadium.

It will put the Chiefs much closer to their fans; Missouri Western is only an hour drive from K.C., compared to the seven-hour drive to the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Consequently, few Chiefs fans have made the annual summer trek since the team began training here in 1991. Fans in this area mainly root for the Vikings or the Packers.

In the days when NFL teams sought seclusion during camp, this was an ideal place. But the emphasis now is capitalizing on marketing opportunities with fans; holding camp at a team’s own facilities or at least closer to home helps achieve that.

–Vic Carucci

Fisher not worried about Titans injuries

Titans coach Jeff Fisher said he is not concerned about mounting injuries to his team.

Nine Titans, including four starters, were held out of Tennessse’s 27-20 preseason win over Tampa Bay Saturday.

Cowboys Williams hurts wrist in practice

Cowboys WR Roy Williams hurt his left wrist during Sunday’s morning practice and missed the afternoon session.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Williams was having X-rays and an MRI taken on the sore wrist Sunday afternoon.

Childress not ready to name starting QB

Brad Childress said he is in no rush to name a regular season starter after the Vikings’ first preseason game, a 13-3 road win over the Indianapolis Colts.

Sage Rosenfels finished the game 10 of 13 for 91 yards and led the Vikings on two scoring drives, while Tarvaris Jackson completed 7 of 15 passes for 39 yards.

Cowboys CB Jenkins returns to practice

Dallas Cowboys Cornerback Mike Jenkins returned to practice Sunday after missing a week with a sprained right ankle.

Neither Jenkins or CB Terence Newman played in the Cowboys’ preseason opener against the Oakland Raiders Thursday night, but coach Wade Phillips said they could have played if it had been the regular season.

Phillips expects Newman (groin) to be back at practice Monday.

Marshall, Dawkins return to Broncos practice

Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall and safety Brian Dawkins returned to practice Sunday.

Marshall had missed over a week of practice with a leg injury, while Dawkins had not practiced since Aug. 3 with a broken right hand.

Eagles’ Vick putting in overtime at practice

Eagles QB Michael Vick spent some extra time on the field after practice Sunday as he plays catch up in trying to learn the offense.

Vick completed some deep passes during practice and was reportedly in good spirits.

Around the league

NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora checks in on Sunday with the latest from training camps, including the Ravens signing QB Cleo Lemon and why the Saints signed K John Carney.

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