Chargers missing 4 stars as camp hits high gear
SAN DIEGO (AP) – The San Diego Chargers didn’t have perfect attendance Friday for their first two full-squad practices of training camp.
Running back Ryan Mathews, the heir apparent to LaDainian Tomlinson, hasn’t signed a contract yet and has missed five practices. He missed three practices earlier this week for rookies and selected veterans.
Mathews was the 12th overall pick. The players picked on either side of him, San Francisco’s Anthony Davis and Philadelphia’s Brandon Graham, both agreed to deals on Friday, which could help Mathews and the Chargers finalize a contract.
Also missing were outside linebacker Shawne Merriman, left tackle Marcus McNeill and Pro Bowl wide receiver Vincent Jackson. They are unhappy about their status as restricted free agents.
While McNeill and Jackson are expected to have prolonged holdouts, Merriman’s holdout isn’t expected to be as long.
Still, coach Norv Turner isn’t happy.
“He needs to get back to where he’s practicing and playing every day,” Turner said. “The biggest thing people need to understand is that this is a team deal. Nothing we do is based on any one guy. It’s based on a team, on 11 guys playing together, and I’d like to get him back to being one of those 11 guys working on a common goal.”
The holdouts have been the talk of Chargers training camp and likely will be for some time, but Turner doesn’t believe it will distract from the team’s on-field work. He’s also put a moratorium on discussing anyone who hasn’t reported to camp.
“I’m not going to address the three guys who aren’t here after today,” he said. “I’m not going to speak of it and our guys aren’t going to spend a lot of time talking about it either. They would all like those guys to be here, but this group has handled change and distraction as well as any I’ve been around. I don’t think it creates distraction in our building.
“There are a bunch of guys getting an opportunity to play and I believe our team has confidence that they’ll get the job done.”
McNeill and Jackson appear to be prepared to sit out training camp and the season’s first 10 games. They’ll likely report for the final six games in order to accrue another season toward unrestricted free agency.
Jackson and McNeill were tendered one-year deals at just more than $3 million each. When they didn’t sign the offers by June 15, the Chargers were entitled to offer them their same salaries as 2009, resulting in a loss of about $2.5 million each.
Merriman hasn’t signed his tender for $3.269 million, but the outside linebacker was due a 10 percent raise anyway, which would put his 2010 pay at approximately the tender amount. Still, he hasn’t said when he’ll report.
He did comment on his Twitter account recently about tight end Antonio Gates’ $36 million contract extension: “1st thought upon seeing Antonio Gates’ full deal: wht do Vincent Jackson, Marcus McNeill & Shawne Merriman think?God Bless.”