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Expectations high as Chargers open camp under Turner

SAN DIEGO (AP) -Six months later, the San Diego Chargers still feel the sting of an early playoff exit.

The defending AFC West champions opened training camp with rookies and a handful of veterans on Wednesday amid considerable expectations that go along with having perhaps the NFL's most-talented roster.

"I'm just excited and anxious more than anything," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "Having just about everybody back and the additions we've made, we know what the expectations are.

"There hasn't been a whole lot of dialogue in the locker room about what we expect and what we've got to do and all that rah-rah because we know how disappointed we were last year and what we should have done, and now it's a matter of getting back at it to get that done."

Powered by league MVP LaDainian Tomlinson - one of the team's 11 Pro Bowlers and five All-Pros - the Chargers were an NFL-best 14-2 last season. Instead of going deep into the playoffs, they imploded in their opener, a 24-21 loss to New England.

A month later, coach Marty Schottenheimer was fired in the culmination of a personality clash with general manager A.J. Smith.

Norv Turner took over, and he's got a solid foundation to build on. The Chargers still run the system Turner installed in 2001 as offensive coordinator, and have only a handful of positions up for grabs this camp.

"I don't think there's a lot of uncertainty in anyone's mind in terms of, here is what we do well, here's what we're going to be real good at, here's what the Chargers have been good at over the last three years," Turner said. "We can build on that. We know what we want to be. We won't be out there in the next month experimenting, screwing around with a lot of things that aren't going to make it to the field. We're going to go out there and get real good and continue to build on the things that the Chargers have done real well over the last three years."

Turner certainly sees room for improvement.

"There are a lot of players on this football team who have played on a real high level who can still play better and there's more guys like that on our team than there are who are at the best they can be. When you're a coach and you say, we've got six or seven guys on each side of the ball who aren't anywhere as near as good as they could be, that's exciting."

Rivers said "it's going to be a treat" playing for Turner, who played quarterback at Oregon in the early 1970s and was offensive coordinator with the Dallas Cowboys when they won the Super Bowl after the 1992 and '93 seasons.

"I'm interested to see the whole operation of a game day," Rivers said. "It's going to be a lot of fun. He's a guy that's very demanding of the quarterback, expects a lot from him, but does a heck of a job of relaying information and allowing me to know how he thinks. The quarterback needs to know why the play caller's calling the play, what's he wanting to get out of it. That's something I can see we think a lot alike, which is going to make the whole transition really smooth."

The only free-agent transaction the Chargers made in the offseason was retaining left guard Kris Dielman, who turned down a better deal from Seattle to remain with the Chargers for about $39 million over six years.

"Having that line together is so important trying to win championships," Smith said. "It's the most excited I've been in a while, anticipating some postseason action. I'm really, really pleased with the talent level that we have. We're optimistic. I think we have a playoff-caliber team."

Notes: The rest of the veterans report Friday, with the first full-squad practice on Saturday. ... The team said it has sold out all eight regular-season home games, which will be televised live throughout Southern California.

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