San Diego Chargers  

 

Bolts' Rivers not fazed by Jackson, McNeill's potential holdouts

  • By NFL.com
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Philip Rivers' approach to the upcoming season hasn't changed, even though much of the personnel around him likely will look much different.

Facing the prospect of starting the regular season without two of his Pro Bowl safety nets -- wide receiver Vincent Jackson and left tackle Marcus McNeill -- the San Diego Chargers' star quarterback plans to continue playing at a high level -- and expects those teammates filling in to do the same.

"Every game I've played, Marcus and Vincent have been out there, so certainly it would be different not to have them," Rivers said Monday while appearing on NFL Network's NFL Total Access. "There at left tackle, we picked up Tra Thomas over the summer, Brandyn Dombrowski is a young player that's really coming along, got some game experience last year. So whatever it is, they're going to play well.

"Again, we've found in past years, last year, we've had to overcome some adversity, overcome some injuries. In this case, if we were not to have those guys, we'll keep on moving."

La Canfora: Big moment for Jackson
Should the Chargers opt to follow all avenues allowed to them under the labor deal, Vincent Jackson might have to decide by Week 7 whether or not to sit out the entire season, Jason La Canfora writes. More ...

Jackson and McNeill, both restricted free agents, are threatening to hold out during training camp -- and perhaps longer -- in protest of the Chargers not offering them long-term deals. Having not signed deals prior to the June 15 deadline, both players forfeited close to $2.5 million in compensation for 2010, unless a long-term agreement can be reached.

Jackson's situation is made even more complicated because of a three-game suspension handed down by the NFL last week.

"Obviously we found out we won't have him for the first three weeks of the season, and as you mentioned, it could be longer," Rivers said. "You want to have all your guys. But I'm confident in the group we have. (Tight end) Antonio Gates is pretty good, (wide receiver) Malcolm Floyd is pretty good. (Running back) Darren Sproles ... is pretty good.

"Certainly, we'd love to have Vincent -- I hope we do -- but if not, certain guys will have to step up. Legedu Naanee, Buster Davis and those guys will have to step up."

Gates and Sproles' ability can't be questioned, but Rivers acknowledged that only more live-game action will determine if the likes of Floyd and Naanee can fill the void left by Jackson.

"I think they are (ready). You never know until you have to be," Rivers said. "Last year, nobody expected some of the injuries we had in Week 1 in Oakland. We overcame those and went on to win 11 in a row, so those guys will be called on. They have a bigger role. Whatever it is, though, we're not going to change our mindset. Our goals, our expectations are going to stay lofty."

Rivers also praised Floyd during an earlier chat with fans on NFL.com.

"Malcolm is an extremely talented receiver who will continue to make big plays and be a big part of this offense," he said. "One of the best jump ball guys in the league."

One player Rivers knows he will not have at his disposal all season is running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who signed a free-agent deal with the New York Jets during the offseason.

"A guy that's done what he's done both on and off the field, what he's meant to our franchise, not seeing him in the locker room, not seeing him in the meetings, it's been a little different for me," Rivers said.

As with the potential absences of Jackson and McNeill, Rivers is confident that the Chargers' front office has provided the personnel to do the job. In the case of who will fill Tomlinson's big shoes, Rivers offered high praise for first-round draft pick Ryan Mathews.

"I think we've moved past that transition period," Rivers said. "Obviously, we drafted a running back in Ryan Mathews. He's had a good summer, looks the part -- he has a presence about him that kind of exudes something special. As we get through this training camp and head toward Week 1, hopefully we'll be clicking on all cylinders."

While the Chargers' offensive starters might be less experienced to start the season, they will have the benefit of a relatively easy early schedule. San Diego's first six opponents had a combined record of 32-64 last season.

The Chargers will face the Kansas City Chiefs, Jacksonville Jaguars and Seattle Seahawks in their first three weeks, but Rivers isn't taking any opponent lightly.

"Early in the year, you never know how teams are going to be," Rivers said. "What they've done last year really doesn't matter. Each team has tried to improve in the offseason and get better.

"We start off with a tough road game in the division in Kansas City. It would be nice to get off to a good start there. Hopefully we don't have that 1-3, 2-3 start like we've had in the past. We always seem to finish strong in December. It'd be nice to get off to a fast start."

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