posted on May, 8 2004 @ 02:00 PM
-- Philip Rivers fit right in during his first practice with the San Diego Chargers.
"He struggled," coach Marty Schottenheimer said after the NFL's worst team opened its minicamp Friday. "There's just eight million things going on out
OK, so it was just one practice, and a limited one at that. Each of the four quarterbacks got 12 snaps in team drills, and about half of those were
running plays. Rivers had one pass deflected, then was picked off by linebacker Donnie Edwards on the next play.
Incumbent starter Drew Brees also had a ball tipped and then threw a pickoff. Later, he vowed to keep his job.
Unlike Eli Manning, Rivers wanted to be here. Rivers was caught up in the draft-day drama two weeks ago when the Chargers chose Manning with the No. 1
pick, despite his wishes to the contrary.
After the New York Giants took Rivers with the fourth pick, the teams swapped quarterbacks, with the Chargers also getting a third-round pick and the
Giants' first- and fifth-round picks next year.
Rivers said he was anxious before his first practice with the Chargers, who finished 4-12 last year and missed the playoffs for the eighth straight
"As far as being comfortable with the football and calling plays and all that, it was kind of taking care of itself," said the 6-foot-5 Rivers, who
has a unique sidearm delivery. "I felt good about all that. It's just you're throwing to guys you've never thrown to before, you're getting the snap
from somebody you've never gotten a snap from before.
"So all that takes the first day like this, which was good for me to get back into the swing of things as the new guy again."
How much he plays as a rookie will be determined over the next several months.
"I'm going to come in and compete like I'm going to have to take the snap the first game," he said. "Whatever's asked of me at that point, I'll be
Schottenheimer doesn't anticipate Rivers having a hard time making the transition from North Carolina State to the NFL.
"This will not be too big for Philip Rivers," Schottenheimer said. "I'm talking about it from the emotional and intellectual standpoint."
Schottenheimer became enamored with Rivers while coaching him at the Senior Bowl. Rivers was MVP of all five bowl games he played in during college,
including the Senior Bowl.
Rivers set an NCAA record with 51 career starts and is the second-leading passer in NCAA history with 13,484 yards.
Brees said he welcomed the competition. Ordained the team's QB of the future three years ago, Brees won six of his first seven starts, but is 4-16 in
his last 20. Brees struggled so much last year that he was benched for five games and pulled from two others.
"By them going out and getting a quarterback, I don't feel like I've been pushed away," Brees said. "I still feel like this is my team and that I'm
the starting quarterback of this team and it's my job to take us to the promised land."
Brees has had a friendly competition the last two seasons with 41-year-old Doug Flutie. Brees thinks this competition will be civil, too.
"He seems like a good guy," Brees said of Rivers. "I'm sure he wants to come in here and start, just like I want to start, just like Doug wants to
"It's not going to be one of those things where we're stabbing each other in the back. I'm sure we're all going to end up helping one another, we're
all going to push one another, but in the end we're all competing against one another for that starting job."
Running back LaDainian Tomlinson said Rivers looked comfortable.
"It's kind of like, this is no big deal to him. It was obviously a sign of a guy who has played a lot of football."
But Tomlinson also said Brees will accept the challenge.
"I don't think he's going to back down at all," Tomlinson said.
Regardless of who starts, the Chargers don't have a big-play wide receiver or a reliable offensive line -- they're especially lacking a left
After an offseason shakeup, 71 of the 95 players on the roster have three or fewer years of experience.
"I don't even know who's on the team anymore," Edwards said. "I just think we need name tags. Walk around with name tags and say, 'Who are you? Oh,
you're the starter. OK.'"