SAN DIEGO (AP) — The San Diego Chargers resemble a circus as they prepare to open what could be their final training camp in San Diego.
Ownership has stomped away from negotiations with the city for a replacement for aging Qualcomm Stadium, eager to keep its options open in the Los Angeles market and in the process angering fans who feel they’re being abandoned.
It’s gotten so contentious that Mick Jagger and LaDainian Tomlinson have called out the Bolts.
During the Rolling Stones’ concert May 24 at Petco Park — the sparkling home of baseball’s Padres — Jagger mentioned what a good time the band was having in opening its tour in San Diego. "It’s so beautiful here. Why would anyone want to leave? Especially the Chargers," Jagger said.
Tomlinson, the face of the franchise from 2001-09, stiff-arms the team in a TV commercial for a local heating and air conditioning company. Introduced at a mock news conference, Tomlinson covers the microphone with one hand and says to the company’s owners: "So you guys are sticking around, right?"
On the field, there will be plenty of sideshows.
Star tight end Antonio Gates will be suspended without pay for the first four regular-season games for testing positive for a performance enhancing drug. Franchise quarterback Philip Rivers isn’t enamored with the thought of moving his family to Los Angeles. Safety Eric Weddle feels disrespected because the team won’t extend his contract.
Here are some things to look for as the Bolts open camp Thursday, with a hat tip to the Greatest Rock `n’ Roll Band in the World:
MISS YOU: Gates can participate in training camp and play in preseason games, but then will be barred from the team until Oct. 5, when the Chargers host the Pittsburgh Steelers in a Monday night game. He blamed the positive test on supplements and holistic medicines. His absence will allow fourth-year pro Ladarius Green to show what he’s got. Green has 40 catches for 658 yards and three TDs in three seasons.
THE LAST TIME (?): Rivers, the starting QB since 2006, and Weddle, a two-time All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowler, are entering the final seasons of their contracts. The Chargers want Rivers back but aren’t hot on Weddle, the leader of the defense and special teams. Weddle has vowed to give it his all and then move on. Weddle began growing a beard during the 2013 season, promising not to shave it until the Chargers win the Super Bowl. One saying that might eventually apply to Weddle: "The Chargers make you a star; someone else makes you a champion."
START ME UP: OK, so it’s not all Doom and Gloom with what is for this year, at least, Southern California’s only NFL team. The Chargers are looking for big things from their top two draft picks, running back Melvin Gordon from Wisconsin and linebacker Denzel Perryman of Miami. General manager Tom Telesco, who traded up to get Gordon, said the running back has "home run ability." It’s an interesting analogy, considering that the Padres might be San Diego’s only big league team after this season.
YOU CAN’T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT: The Chargers are coming off consecutive third-place finishes in the AFC West. They made the playoffs in coach Mike McCoy’s rookie season, but then blew a chance to make a return visit when they lost to the Chiefs and backup quarterback Chase Daniel in the season finale. McCoy has the same playoff winning percentage, .500, as the coach he replaced, Norv Turner. Turner, however, never finished lower than second place in his six seasons. The Chargers say they’re building a foundation, a curious assertion considering they couldn’t hang with the AFC’s elite, New England and Denver, in consecutive weeks in December, as they followed a playoff season with a non-playoff performance. There’s a good chance they’ll miss the postseason this season, too.
GIMME SHELTER: Everyone acknowledges that Qualcomm Stadium is a dump, but the city and Chargers haven’t been able to find a way to replace it. The Chargers seem so petrified that the Rams will beat them to the L.A. market that they’ve mocked Mayor Kevin Faulconer while teaming with their rivals, the hated Oakland Raiders, on plans for a stadium in Carson if the teams can’t get deals in their home markets. During the third week of camp, San Diego city officials will meet with the NFL relocation committee. It hasn’t been lost on fans that Mark Fabiani, who represents the Spanos family on the stadium front, is a former deputy mayor of Los Angeles.
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