The first Saturday of training camp did not disappoint. The team had more than 3,000 fans show up at Chargers Park. It was the first day the team was in full pads, which upped the tempo and excitement.
One couple told me they gave up going to Catalina today to come to watch the Chargers practice. A few of the Chargers Girls were on-hand posing for fan photos, but one of the biggest treats for fans was the return of Chargers Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson.
L.T. was wearing a polo shirt instead of his No. 21 jersey, as he was at the field reporting for the NFL Network. Nonetheless, fans could not get enough of him, screaming "L.T., we love you!" I never thought I would be happy to see L.T. on the sidelines, but he looked right at home with his newfound team, which we all can agree is better than the New York Jets.
I covered camp during Manti Te'o's rookie season, and let me tell you, this is a polar opposite player. Back in 2013, Te'o was coming off of his PR nightmare from getting "catfished." Either he had a phenomenal PR team, great family support or a little of both because once No. 50 took the field, it seemed to dissolve.
The problem was although Te'o was solid, we all knew he could be better and you couldn't help but wonder if all of what he went through had really been left at the door. Three foot injuries later, doubt amongst fans and critics started to creep back in.
Fast-forward to 2015. Te'o came into camp lean, focused, relaxed and confident. He no longer seemed to be the jaded victim unable to look reporters in the eyes. I remember his first season as a Charger and after practices he would drop his head and hold his breath as he made his way to the locker room, seemingly praying no one would talk to him. Today he was laughing, asking, "OK, who's next?"
Te'o was signing autographs, taking fan selfies and organically enjoying every second of it. The fans couldn't get enough of him.
Manti stopped to talk to us today after practice. When asked where he feels he has grown the most, his reply was: "Honestly, spiritually. This offseason I've been working hard mentally and physically. I am in the best shape of my life. I've really tried to strengthen my spiritual life and putting God first."
When asked if working with Philip Rivers helps his spiritual growth, he said, "Oh, yea, him and Eric [Weddle]. Just great men, family men, God-fearing men."
If Te'o keeps this up, he will be the one feared.
Mike McCoy laid down the gauntlet this spring, insisting he wants to see a more physical team, and it started today. Although the team is not practicing at full speed yet, bodies were flying around the ball and the competition started to get real.
On offense, receivers Torrance Allen, Austin Pettis and Stevie Johnson continue to impress by making big plays and tough catches.
Trevor Robinson stepped in at starting center today; Chris Watt had his right knee wrapped and was on the sidelines most of the day. Elsewhere on the offensive line, Craig Watts really stepped it up today, picking up rushing defenders. As for the team's other guards, Michael Huey and Jeremiah Sirles stood out while Johnnie Troutman seemed to struggle a bit, getting manhandled and beaten inside even more than usual.
On defense, OLB Brock Hekking was a beast on Red Bull. The offensive line had a tough time containing him.
The news was not so good for DT Tenny Palepoi, who was injured and left practice sitting upright on a cart with what appeared to be an ankle injury.
Rookie kicker Josh Lambo was nailing field goals with Nick Novak, both looking impressive.
Jones Brings Swag
Jacoby Jones talked to a group of us in the media after practice about the first day in pads.
"It puts your grind on, you get the rust out and get to it," he said.
One reporter asked, "Do you feel the receivers were as physical as the rest of the team, since typically receivers are known as the pretty boys?"
Jones replied, "Well, I'm not pretty, but I got swag."
Although practice was visibly more physical, Jones looked ready for more.
"I'm old school. I came in back in 2007 when pads were in two-a-days. But things are a lot different now."
The important thing to take away from that comment is that there is a solid veteran leadership here for the new rookies. Jones made another important comment, stating "it's gonna be tough to make this team," meaning there is so much talent that if you're not stepping up, your just gonna get stepp'n.
What are your thoughts on the third day of training camp? Share them in our message boards!
Jody Taylor is a retired women's pro football player and former media relations director for the Women's Professional Football League. She has been published in Sports Illustrated, CNN, Time and several sports media outlets covering the WPFL, Arena Football League and NFL. She is the founder of Sixty5 Media in San Diego and coaches for the NFL's Flag/Play 60 program in San Diego. Follow her @RealJodyTaylor