SAN DIEGO (AP) Now 34 and entering his 13th NFL season, Dwight Freeney is looking forward to proving himself all over again.
Freeney is rehabbing a quadriceps injury that shelved the outside linebacker after just four games last season, his first with the San Diego Chargers.
Although he was mostly working on the side during the first day of mandatory minicamp Tuesday, Freeney said he's far enough along that could play right now.
He did get in for a few plays here and there during the team portion of practice, which is being conducted in helmets, shorts and jerseys.
''We're taking baby steps here,'' Freeney said. ''We're not playing yet, so for now it's just making sure I have confidence in what I'm doing. They put me in when they want to put me in. I'm fine with that. I'm an older guy here in year 13 so I'm not complaining.''
Freeney had 107 1/2 sacks in 11 seasons with Indianapolis before declining production led the Colts to let him leave after the 2012 season. He signed a two-year deal with San Diego and had one-half sack last year before getting hurt.
''You want to go out there and just completely play as hard as you possibly can but not only that, prove to everybody that I'm back,'' Freeney said. ''I think that's always going to be there regardless of whether I got hurt, because there's always that question mark.''
The veteran said he wants to prove it to himself, as well, ''that I can still go out there and be very effective and still play with the top guys out there in the league. That's just my mentality. Until someone proves otherwise, I'm going to believe that.''
Freeney thought he would be out for three weeks after getting hurt.
''I walked off the field. By the time I got to the locker room the doctor said, `You're going to be out for four.' I said, `Oh, four weeks?' and he said, `No, four months.' I went, `Whoa, what do you mean?' Once I had surgery, I realized it's a long process.''
Star tight end Antonio Gates was absent Tuesday, as he has been most of the offseason. Coach Mike McCoy said Gates is tending to ''a very personal situation,'' believed to be a family illness.
Also Tuesday, McCoy chose to have loud music played during stretching and the two-minute drill, ranging from country to rap to AC/DC.
''No. 1, we're going to be playing on the road, which is going to be loud from time to time, and we're going to be playing at home, and it's going to be awful loud at home, too,'' McCoy said. ''That's the environment we want our fans to have when your defense is out there, playing loud and having a good time.''
The Chargers usually play loud crowd noise or the sound of airline engines.
It's safe to say McCoy doesn't have most of the songs on his iPod, calling them ''some other forms of music I don't know a whole lot about. If it's not Kenny Chesney or someone like that. I'm not listening to a lot of it. But it's better than listening to airplane music for a two-minute drill.''
Quarterback Philip Rivers said the music ''actually added a little energy, I think, to stretch and to the individual period, and the two-minute period, it was loud. It was probably louder than the standard static crowd noise we have. I thought it was all right.''
Rivers said he doesn't own an iPod.
''But a few of those songs, though, I've heard of, know a little bit,'' he said.
Rivers said he listens to music the old-fashioned way, on AM-FM radio.
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