Chargers, 1st-rounder Liuget agree to terms

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.