Despite being heavy favorites both times, the San Diego Chargers have fallen short of capturing the AFC West crown in back-to-back seasons. Looking to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009, Philip Rivers and Co. will have their work cut out for them in 2012. After all, Peyton Manning has joined division. Oh, and it doesn’t help that Rivers lost top wide receiver Vincent Jackson in free agency.
But maybe the Bolts have the rest of the division right where they want it this time. Because for probably the first time in half a dozen years, they’re not necessarily expected to win the AFC West.
Philip Rivers joined XX Sports Radio in San Diego to discuss offseason changes, the loss of Vincent Jackson and the team’s return to the facility with offseason activities. He once again denied rumors that he dealt with a secret injury in 2011, and obviously was asked to address the addition of Peyton Manning to the AFC West.
On if he’s studied tape yet with his new offensive teammates:
“Not with the new guys. We’ve communicated by text and I’ve spoken to all those guys — I shouldn’t say all of them, most of them — and we have plenty of time. We’ve got plenty of time, so starting next week when everybody rolls in here on Monday, it’ll be Apr. 23, so we’ll have plenty of time before the opener in September to get ready. And we’ll definitely be putting in some extra time up there.”
On what’s changed with the 2012 edition of the team:
“I see some similarities. I think, for the most part, the core of the team, the nucleus of the team is returning. All due respect to losing some key components — Vincent Jackson, Mike Tolbert, no doubt about it those were guys that were part of the core — but I do think we kept the majority of the core group of guys. And then I think with the additions we made, they will quickly become a part of that core group. You’re talking about veteran players in (Robert) Meachem and (Eddie) Royal and Jarret Johnson, and I don’t wanna leave guys out. We’ve made quite a few more signings than we have in years past … and they’ll quickly become a part of that core, that nucleus. And I think, in a lot of ways, we have a similar team, and in a lot of ways it’s gonna be a different team and one that’s gonna be really exciting to see take shape over the next couple months.”
If it’s a surprise that Vincent Jackson isn’t back:
“I mean, no. I don’t think so, because it got to free agency. I was always more optimistic until it got to free agency. And I always was afraid that it was gonna be that one team out there. That’s all it takes is one team that really loves the guy, and there’s certainly many reasons to fall in love with the guy, and he was obviously their marquee acquisition.”
On if he was secretly injured when he struggled last season:
“I was not hurt, and still don’t. I feel great. … It’s a compliment. It’s not true, but I appreciate that nobody thinks that I would throw 20 picks unless I was hurt, so I guess that’s a good thing.”
Why he’s happy to have Peyton Manning in the division:
“There’s four teams in this division, so I’m by no means excluding Oakland and Kansas City. We lost to both of those teams last year. But it certainly makes the division even tougher. You’re talking about one of the best quarterbacks to ever play, if not the best, in your division, and a guy that’s won 10 or more games in I don’t know how many years in a row. So it’s exciting, and always been one of my favorites. Fun to compete against Peyton Manning-led teams. I’ve said the same things about Brett Favre and Tom Brady. When you’re playing Aaron Rodgers — I mean, we play a lot of those guys that are the best. When you play ’em, it’s special, because you’re not playing them, but they’re the leaders of that team over there and it’s exciting. And I just thought it was first-class the way he handled the Indianapolis Colts departure and the press conference in Denver. I’m still a fan, as I was as a 16-,17-,18-year-old and still watch and enjoy now.”