The Chargers kicked off mini camp on Tuesday, but the on-field action turned out to be merely a side note. The real drama of the day took place at the podium and at City Hall with a pair of deadline-driven dilemmas. Will the Chargers strike a new deal with Eric Weddle before the start of training camp? Can the city get in a stadium vote before the Chargers opt for relocation? These questions are far more important than who looked good in shells.
Weddle Puts Chargers on Blast
Eric Weddle has been vocal about his displeasure with his contract situation. Entering the final year of a five-year, $40 million deal, Weddle desires an extension that would allow him to retire with the only franchise he's ever known.
Unfortunately for Weddle, the feeling isn't mutual. San Diego does not want to offer a rich extension to a safety who will be 31 years old by the time his current deal expires. So, despite what Tom Telesco indicated in his press conference a few weeks back, the Chargers will not make a legitimate push to retain their All Pro safety.
Weddle made his feelings on the matter perfectly clear on Tuesday.
"Despite our attempts to discuss an extension on multiple occasions, unfortunately the desire has not been mutual," Weddle said. "Contrary to what has recently been said by upper management, there has never been any financial numbers discussed, and the Chargers have never put an offer on the table for us to consider.
"It's obvious that I'm not part of this organization's long-term plan. The NFL is a business, and I can accept that. I just wish the organization had been up-front with me from Day 1."
Weddle added that if an extension is not in place by the start of training camp on July 30, he will instruct his agent to end all communication with the Chargers. That would make the 2015 season his last in San Diego.
Part of Telesco's concern is the amount of wear and tear on Weddle's body. Since breaking into the starting lineup in 2008, Weddle has played an average of 937 snaps per season. There is hesitation to hand out a four- or five-year extension to a player with so many miles on his odometer.
Weddle believes those concerns are unfounded.
"I'm not going to play if I'm not one of the top-tier guys, and playing at a high level, productive and helping the team win," Weddle said. "I see myself playing four, five or six more years. I'm getting better and my body is maturing. I'm getting healthier. Until I see a reason why not, then that's what I'll believe."
While Weddle clearly had mixed emotions about his return to Chargers Park, his teammates and coaches were thrilled to have The Beard back patrolling the secondary. One of those teammates is Philip Rivers, who relishes his back-and-forth exchanges with Weddle.
"He raises the level of the guys around him," Rivers said. "He brings some energy to the practice that we haven't had as much. It's been a solid offseason. That's not to shortchange the group that we've had out there. But there's no denying he makes us a better team. So it was good to have him back out there."
It's not just the veterans who are excited. Rookie FS John Lowdermilk to us during a recent interview how excited he is to learn from the veteran center fielder.
Even head coach Mike McCoy, the king of neutrality, could not hide how excited he was to see No. 32 back on the field.
"He looked like Eric Weddle," McCoy said. "Just what you thought when he showed up. The way he plays, he's a professional. He only knows how to play the game one way. I believe he was probably one of the first guys in the parking lot this morning, working out early doing it his way. (It's) the way he's always done it. That is what we expected when he came here. He's here to help us win. He's a great football player, a great guy and we're happy that he's back with us."
The question that concerns Chargers fans now is this: Will Weddle still lay it all on the line for a franchise that has abandoned him? Will he balk at playing so many snaps knowing his snap count is being used against him? Will he object to playing special teams as a nine-year veteran with an expiring contract?
From the sound of things, Bolts backers have no reason to be worried. Weddle plans to play for his teammates, not for management.
"My teammates support me and love me, and that's what you have in this team," Weddle said. "They've stayed out of it. They've lent me their support. I know that they have my back, and that's all you can ask for."
Chargers Reject Dec. 15 Stadium Vote
The city of San Diego wants to move up a public vote on a new stadium to Dec. 15, shortly before the NFL is to hear proposals from the three franchises looking to relocate to Los Angeles.
City officials believe such a vote can be conducted while satisfying state environmental regulations, but the Chargers on Tuesday publicly disagreed. Now instead of focusing on Dec. 15, both parties are focused on Aug. 11, when the league will hold a special owners meeting in Chicago to discuss the process for teams seeking to file relocation applications to move to Los Angeles.
"Based on all of this work and discussion, the Chargers have concluded that it is not possible to place a ballot measure before voters in December 2015 in a legally defensible manner given the requirements of the state's election law and the California Environmental Quality Act," said stadium point person Mark Fabiani. "The various options that we have explored with the city's experts all lead to the same result: significant time-consuming litigation founded on multiple legal challenges, followed by a high risk of eventual defeat in the courts.
"The Chargers are committed to maintaining an open line of communication with the city's negotiators as we move through the summer and leading up to the special August meeting of National Football League owners. That meeting may provide important information about what is likely to occur during the remainder of 2015."
City officials released some dueling statements.
City attorney Jan Goldsmith rejected the idea that a Dec. 15 vote would circumvent an environmental review.
"We've presented some options that ensure CEQA compliance," Goldsmith said. "Not an end around CEQA, but CEQA compliance. This is not exceptionally difficult. I know there has been a lot that has been written and spoken about that, but there are options that allow for CEQA compliance."
Mayor Kevin Faulconer was even more direct with his wording.
"We have all the ingredients for success in San Diego if the Chargers work with us," he said. "We can get this done if the Chargers want to get it done."
Gates Back in Action
Just so we're not entirely negative, it should be noted that Antonio Gates returned to the team on Tuesday, as well. The 34-year-old tight end reported in fantastic shape and made his presence felt right away, catching the first pass during seven-on-sevens. He routinely stays away from voluntary OTAs, so his offseason approach comes as no surprise. Seeing as he scored 12 touchdowns last season, the team is extremely comfortable with Gates doing what works best for him.
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Michael Lombardo has covered the San Diego Chargers since 2003. He spent 12 years covering the team for Scout.com and has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. In addition to being publisher of SDBoltReport.com, he also works as the Senior NFL Reporter for Footballinsiders.com. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.