Boston wants to be more than safety net

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Mike DiGio­vanna mike.digio­ Twit­ter: @MikeDiGio­vanna

It’s pretty easy to spot free safety Tre Boston ata Charg­ers prac­tice. He’s the guy with the dread­locks flow­ing from his hel­met to the No. 33 on the back of his jersey, and who is usu­ally break-danc­ing to the hiphop mu­sic blar­ing from the speak­ers sur­round­ing the prac­tice field in Costa Mesa.

“That’s just kind of his per­son­al­ity, and it’s con­ta­gious,” coach An­thony Lynn said. “Tre has a lot of en­ergy. You need a few guys like that.”

Boston, a for­mer Carolina Pan­thers de­fen­sive back who is com­pet­ing with Dwight Low­ery for the start­ing free safety job, is a hu­man es­presso shot, a three-year NFL vet­eran who has a knack for know­ing when his team needs a lift.

Take the team’s first prac­tice this week. As the Charg­ers stretched un­der gloomy skies, Boston sensed some play­ers were hav­ing a case of the Mon­days. So he started mov­ing and groov­ing to the mu­sic and chirp­ing at his team­mates.

“I’ve al­ways been that loose,” Boston, 24, said. “It was over­cast, and guys didn’t feel like prac­tic­ing. When I come out, I want to bring the juice, I en­er­gize my guys, let them know it’s a great day to be alive, a great day to come out and do some­thing you love.”

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Boston, who grew up in Fort Myers, Fla., and played col­lege ball at North Carolina, was a fourth-round pick of the Pan­thers in 2014. He played in 11 games, with five starts, as a rookie, post­ing 24 tack­les and one in­ter­cep­tion.

He played in 16 games with one start in 2015, a sea­son that ended with Carolina los­ing to Den­ver 24-10 in Su­per Bowl 50. Boston had four tack­les, one sack and a fum­ble re­cov­ery in three post­sea­son games.

Boston played in 15 games with 10 starts last sea­son, ac­cu­mu­lat­ing 50 tack­les, two sacks, five passes de­fended and two in­ter­cep­tions, but he was re­leased in a cost-cut­ting move.

His de­ci­sion to sign with the Charg­ers was a leap of faith. Lit­er­ally.

Three teams — the Charg­ers, Buf­falo Bills and Pittsburgh Steel­ers — pur­sued Boston. On his flight home to Char­lotte, N.C., from his last re­cruit­ing trip in May, Boston prayed for clar­ity. On the drive home from the air­port, Boston stopped for gas.

There, a man with three kids asked Boston for some change. Boston gave him $20. The man thanked Boston pro­fusely and in­tro­duced him­self. “He said his name was Mike Daniels,” Boston said, “but peo­ple call me L.A.”

To Boston, this was divine in­ter­ven­tion, a sign he should sign with the Charg­ers.

“I felt like God was telling me where to go,” Boston said. “No one can take away my tes­ta­ment. I’m here, and I’m lov­ing it. It’s crazy how God can take you from be­ing un­com­fort­able to be­ing com­fort­able again.”

In new de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Gus Bradley’s 4-3 cover-3 scheme, the free safety is like a cen­ter fielder, the last line of de­fense, so speed, in­stincts and clos­ing abil­ity are key. It’s the po­si­tion Earl Thomas fills so well for Seattle’s de­fense, which Bradley led from 2009 to 2012.

Low­ery, 31, is a nine-year vet­eran who played in Jack­sonville in 2013, when Bradley started a three-year stint there as coach, so that ex­pe­ri­ence could give him a slight edge over Boston.

But both free safeties are ex­pected to get plenty of play­ing time, and they could play to­gether in a big-nickel pack­age, which fea­tures three safeties and two corner­backs.

“Me and Dwight Low­ery are go­ing at it right now, we’re two com­pet­i­tive guys who are get­ting bet­ter each day,” said Boston, who picked off a pass by Philip Rivers in the end zone dur­ing a red-zone drill Tues­day.

“When you’re help­ing each other and don’t have that an­i­mos­ity to­ward each other, that’s how your team de­vel­ops, how your team gets bet­ter. When you’re one big fam­ily try­ing to egg each other on, you get bet­ter as a team.”


Cor­ner­back Ja­son Ver­rett, who is re­turn­ing from knee surgery, took part in full-padded team drills for the first time. “He was very com­pet­i­tive,” Lynn said. “He was div­ing for balls, break­ing up passes. It was good to see.” … Among the prac­tice high­lights was a 70-yard tuck-and-run by re­serve quar­ter­back Cardale Jones and an ac­ro­batic catch by Da’Ron Brown, with a de­fender draped over him, on a back-shoul­der pass from Rivers. … First-round pick Mike Williams, the for­mer Clem­son re­ceiver side­lined by a her­ni­ated disk in his lower back, started run­ning Mon­day. “We just want him to keep pro­gress­ing, to not have any set­backs, and we’ll see what hap­pens,” Lynn said. … Chris McCain, a 6-5, 236-pound re­serve de­fen­sive end from Cal­i­for­nia, has im­pressed coaches early in camp. “He’s very con­sis­tent,” Lynn said. “His pass­rush is good, and he’s a re­ally good run-de­fender for a man his size. He’s knock­ing guys back, mak­ing plays in the back­field. That was a sur­prise, be­cause he looks like a bas­ket­ball player.” … Re­ceiver Geremy Davis (ham­string) and de­fen­sive end Chris Lan­drum (shoul­der) re­main side­lined, but Lynn said Davis could re­turn by Sun­day. … Tight end Jeff Cum­ber­land sat out prac­tice to be with his wife, who de­liv­ered a boy.

Jae C. Hong Associated Press

TRE BOSTON chose to sign with the Charg­ers af­ter what he be­lieved to be a sign from God.

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