Chargers giving StubHub test run
Team will practice against the Rams at its temporary home.
The Chargers will get their first look at their new temporary home Saturday when they host the Rams in a combined practice in the 27,000-seat StubHub Center, which is less than half the size of all but one current NFL stadium.
“To be honest, it kind of reminds me of high school,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “I remember that feeling I had, and I think the guys are gonna feed off that real small, intimate crowd that is right on top of us. I think it’s gonna be fun. I’m really looking forward to it.”
The padded practice, scheduled from 4:30 to 7 p.m. in the Carson facility, is open to Chargers season-ticket holders and those on the wait list. Seating will be limited to the lower bowl.
After individual drills, the two offenses will run plays against the opposing defenses. With 90 players on each team, Lynn said there will be plenty of red-zone plays so teams can utilize both ends of the field. There
will be full contact but no tackling to the ground.
“We’ll go ‘thud’ but we won’t take anybody down,” Lynn said after a light practice at the Jack Hammett Sports Complex on Friday. “It’s not a scrimmage, but it’s going to be nice to practice against someone else, because right about now guys are getting tired of seeing each other.”
The Chargers, who moved from San Diego in January, will open the preseason against the Seattle Seahawks in StubHub Center on Aug. 13, and they’ll play the Rams in an Aug. 26 exhibition game in the Coliseum.
The Rams, who returned from St. Louis last season, and Chargers won’t play in the regular season this year, but they will compete for the hearts and minds of Southern California football fans, as the Chargers’ marketing slogan — “Fight for L.A.” — suggests.
Chargers running back Melvin Gordon said he doesn’t feel any rivalry with the Rams right now, “but there’s no doubt in my mind it’s gonna build up during the season,” he said Friday. “It’s the competitive nature of things. You want to be the best team.”
Gordon is looking forward to sharing a field with Rams running back Todd Gurley. The two were the first running backs selected in the 2015 draft, Gurley going 10th overall to the Rams and Gordon 15th to the Chargers.
Gurley had the better rookie year, rushing 229 times for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2015, but he regressed in 2016, rushing 278 times for 885 yards and six touchdowns.
After rushing 184 times for 641 yards and no touchdowns in 2015, Gordon had a breakout year in 2016, rushing 254 times for 997 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“That’s my boy,” Gordon said of Gurley. “My first year, I didn’t do so well and kind of watched him. Then my second year, I did a little better than he did. We’re both fighting to be the best.”
The Chargers moved quickly to add depth to the offensive line in the wake of Forrest Lamp’s knee injury, signing undrafted free agent Barrett Gouger, a two-year starter at Vanderbilt, after a workout Thursday. To make room for Gouger on the 90man roster, the team waived center Dillon DeBoer.
Lamp, a second-round pick out of Western Kentucky who was projected to start at right guard, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in a non-contact incident Wednesday. He will undergo surgery and miss the season.
“It’s disappointing,” Lynn said. “This was a guy who didn’t miss any time in college. He was getting better every single day. But like I told Forrest, things happen for a reason. He’s got a chance to grow as a man, to get better doing something else, and he’s still a part of this team. He’ll be like an assistant coach for the offensive line.”
The 6-foot-4, 310-pound Gouger, 23, moved from guard to center in 2016 and started all 13 Vanderbilt games after current Chargers center Spencer Pulley graduated. Gouger was invited to a New York Jets minicamp after the draft but was not retained.
The end of Friday’s practice was highlighted by a competitive, full-team kicking sesson in which Younghoe Koo, an undrafted free agent, and incumbent Josh Lambo each took five kicks. Koo made all five, including a final boot of 50 yards into the wind, and Lambo made three of five, falling short at 50 yards.
“The kicking and punting battles are two of the better competitions on our team,” Lynn said. “I like how they’re stepping up. I told someone the other day, if the rest of the groups could compete the way those groups are competing, we’re gonna be OK.”
Nuts and bolts
Safety Darrell Stuckey, who suffered a knee injury in the Chargers’ season finale in January, was released after failing his physical. Stuckey was a three-time special teams player of the year, a 2015 Pro Bowl selection and fivetime team captain. He also was voted the Chargers’ 2015 Walter Payton Man of the Year. … Cornerback Jason Verrett, who had season-ending knee surgery after tearing his left ACL in the fourth game, came off the physically unable to perform list and participated in individual drills Friday. … Receiver Keenan Allen, also returning from knee surgery, sat out Friday’s practice because of a sore calf, but Lynn said the injury is not serious. … Receiver Dontrelle Inman, recovering from abdominal surgery, increased his participation in team drills Friday. … Among the highlights Friday were two long pass plays from Philip Rivers to Travis Benjamin, one for a touchdown.