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A.J. Smith: San Diego Chargers have lost NFL respect

The San Diego Chargers have lost their sheen.

For the better part of the last decade, the Chargers regularly were considered Super Bowl contenders this time of year. But coming off back-to-back seasons of empty Januarys, Bolts buzz has dissipated considerably.

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It widely was believed that Norv Turner and A.J. Smith were pink-slip candidates last year. Chargers CEO A.G. Spanos, however, didn't see it that way. **More ...**

Chargers general manager A.J. Smith isn't known to hold back his opinions, and he offered a frank one on his team in a recent conversation with's Peter King.

"We have lost our respect in the league and our credibility in the league," Smith said. "We were an elite team. You miss one year in the playoffs? OK. You miss two? You deserve everything that's being said about you."

It's the type of statement you'd expect to come from local sports talk radio, not a team's GM. But Chargers players don't disagree with Smith's blunt assessment.

When told of the comments, center Nick Hardwick said, "Amen." Tight end Antonio Gates called it a truth that's "not acceptable, not negotiable."

"That's the mentality we have right now," Philip Rivers said. "Not being in the playoffs the last two years, we've developed that feeling, and our feeling right now is we've had enough. We have a little edge about us now. But, you know, you've just got to go out and do it."

We don't believe a lack of edge is what's held the Chargers back in the Rivers/Smith era, but the team perhaps can find motivation in being overlooked for the first time in years. The AFC West might be the NFL's most wide-open division. If the Chargers want it, they can take it.

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