Chargers, 1st-rounder Liuget agree to terms
SAN DIEGO (AP)
Getting Corey Liuget signed should add some power and speed to the Chargers' defensive line.
San Diego and its first-round draft pick agreed to terms of a four-year contract. The team announced the agreement Thursday without revealing financial terms of the deal.
Liuget missed the first week of training camp, but Chargers veteran Jacques Cesaire says the defensive end taken 18th still has time to get ready for the season.
''Corey's part of the Goon Squad now,'' Cesaire said. ''We embrace him, we love him, we want him to succeed at the highest level.''
Liuget led Illinois last year as a junior in quarterback hurries with 10 and was seventh in the Big Ten in tackles for a loss with 12 1/2.
Selected 18th in the draft, the 21-year-old couldn't work with Chargers coaches during the NFL lockout and missed seven days of training camp while his four-year contract was being worked out.
''I was definitely a little nervous, but my first two plays, after that I felt comfortable,'' Liuget said. ''I just want to show guys here I belong. I've just got to keep working. It's definitely fast-paced. It's not college. It was kind of quick on me. It was my first day with a team since last December.''
Liuget studied his playbook, which he received the day after he was drafted, and trained at a gym in San Diego during recent talks. On Thursday, he was finally on the field, wearing No. 94 to honor his father, Ideja, who died in 1994.
''It's an adjustment getting back on the field and in this professional setting,'' said his agent, Tony Fleming, ''but I think he'll be OK.''
''We're all going to help him out,'' Cesaire said.
Also practicing for the first time Thursday was Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, who had been relegated to a side field where he tested a sore foot.
Gates has lamented not being able to work with the team's training staff during the lockout.
Second-year running back Ryan Mathews said he would be further attuned to the offense now if he could've worked with Chargers coaches in May and June.
Liuget, who spent most of the summer in Miami, where he grew up, will be learning two spots in the team's 3-4 defense - end on most downs and tackle in certain passing downs.
''Corey's a pretty smart dude,'' said Cesaire, who stayed in touch with Liuget during the lockout. ''He's a coachable guy, very cerebral. I think he's going to come in and pick up everything quick.
''If it was anybody else, I'd say this guy is going to be behind. But the type of person he is, he's going to pick it up fine.''
Last season, Liuget made 12.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and 10 quarterback hurries as a junior, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors.
After the Chargers drafted him, Liuget said that losing some 20-30 pounds entering his junior year unleashed his speed and power. Thursday, It didn't appear that Liuget, listed at 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds and wearing No. 94, will need to shed much, if any weight.
Fewer than five other first-rounders were unsigned by the time the Chargers announced Liuget's deal. The talks stretched out, Fleming said, in large part because both sides were adjusting to terms within a new labor pact, and each side had to tweak the fourth year of the deal.
''It was very respectful,'' the agent said.
''We're very happy that Corey's contract is done. It's time to go to work,'' Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said in a statement.