Per­ry­man ea­ger to be a leader

Linebacker knows how to re­lay play calls and get de­fense set up. Charg­ers want more.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Dan Woike

In con­ver­sa­tion, the “oomph” isn’t re­ally present in Den­zel Per­ry­man’s voice.

The Charg­ers mid­dle linebacker, the man tasked with re­lay­ing play calls, lin­ing up team­mates and break­ing hud­dles, has a smooth alto when talk­ing with­out a hel­met cov­er­ing his face.

“I’m just try­ing to earn my stripes,” he re­peated. “It’s just my third year.”

But for coach An­thony Lynn and oth­ers work­ing with the Charg­ers’ de­fense, the ex­pec­ta­tion is for Per­ry­man to speak up even more and step into a role closely tied with his po­si­tion on the field.

“He cer­tainly has that per­son­al­ity to be a leader,” Lynn said. “I’ve watched him grow a lit­tle bit this off­sea­son. His com­mu­ni­ca­tion of Gus’ de­fense with the rest of the team and his spirit in prac­tice, I see him be­ing a leader on this foot­ball team.”

A sec­ond-round pick out of Mi­ami in 2015, Per­ry­man had a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing one of the big­gest hit­ters in col­lege foot­ball. But, com­mand­ing an NFL de­fense from the inside linebacker spot re­quires more than just pop — it re­quires the right voice.

Per­ry­man went through the same process at Mi­ami, where, per­haps coin­ci­den­tally, he came into his own in his third year. A pair of 100plus-tackle sea­sons as a ju­nior and se­nior got him drafted into a Charg­ers uni-

form, and even­tu­ally into a start­ing role.

Maybe it was nat­u­ral growth, and maybe it was ac­cel­er­ated by de­fen­sive captain Melvin In­gram’s ab­sence from off­sea­son work­outs, but Per­ry­man has be­come one of the faces of the Charg­ers’ young de­fense, paired with sec­ond-year linebacker Jatavis Brown and third-year backer Kyle Emanuel in Gus Bradley’s 4-3 scheme.

He’ll “just get guys lined up some­times and com­mu­ni­cate the calls,” Lynn said. “I’m sure he’ll have a mic in his hel­met.”

In his fi­nal sea­son in Seat­tle, Bradley turned to a sec­ond-round pick to pa­trol the mid­dle of his de­fense, and Bobby Wag­ner quickly be­came one of the most pro­duc­tive mid­dle lineback­ers in the NFL. Per­ry­man and Wag­ner are al­most the same size, though Wag­ner’s faster while Per­ry­man is prob­a­bly a more phys­i­cal player.

It’s nat­u­ral to com­pare the Charg­ers’ de­fense to the one Bradley had suc­cess with Seat­tle — it’s a pretty good tem­plate. But, repli­ca­tion isn’t a top pri­or­ity.

“We’re the Charg­ers, though,” Per­ry­man said. “We ain’t Seat­tle. We ain’t the Jaguars [where Bradley was a head coach]. We’re the Charg­ers. I think we’re going to form our own de­fense. It is his sys­tem, but we’re going to form our own iden­tity.”

And Per­ry­man will be a big part of it be­cause, well, he al­ready is.

“You can try to do too much be­ing a leader, but for me, I just want it to nat­u­rally hap­pen,” he said. “Hon­estly, I do feel like I have some­what of a lead­er­ship role. I call up the hud­dle, guys lis­ten, re­spond. Older guys lis­ten to what I’m say­ing and vice versa. Coach say­ing I’ve got that lead­er­ship role, that’s pretty good com­ing from the head coach. … I’m just earn­ing my stripes.

“But, I have no prob­lem tak­ing on a lead­er­ship role.”

He’s been one of the most vis­i­ble play­ers as the Charg­ers tran­si­tion from San Diego to Los An­ge­les. He ran a one-mile leg in the city marathon. He read Dr. Seuss to young fans at StubHub Cen­ter and he was on hand to cel­e­brate the Charg­ers’ firstround pick just out­side the gates of Dis­ney­land.

“I like it. I like get­ting out in the community, pe­riod,” he said. “When they ask me to do stuff, I’m the first one to raise my hand and say, ‘I’ll do it.’ That’s the kind of per­son I am, pos­i­tive at­ti­tude. I’m al­ways smil­ing. And, I think it’s ex­actly why they ask me.”

Next, Lynn said, the Charg­ers will ask him to be even louder; to lead even more with his words and his ac­tions. And, if history is any in­di­ca­tion, Per­ry­man will raise his hand to the sky as if to say, “I’ll do it.”

K.C. Al­fred San Diego Union-Tri­bune

“YOU CAN TRY to do too much be­ing a leader, but for me, I just want it to nat­u­rally hap­pen,” says linebacker Den­zel Per­ry­man, shown at a Charg­ers prac­tice.

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