Fans made their way to the park in record numbers again on Sunday. Within the first 30 minutes of the gates being opened, security confirmed attendance had already reached 2,600 even before the wall of people lined the fences. If this is any indication as to how ticket sales will do for the season, I'd say the Spanos family has nothing to worry about.
Sunday's practice kicked off with the team in full gear and I immediately felt like a kid in a candy store, because if you have ever played tackle football you know what this means ... it's "rookie training day". This is the day real contact begins, and it's the day the vets give the rookies an unspoken message: "Welcome to the NFL."
I was pleasantly surprised because I only saw a few wide-eyed rookies. In fact, there were a few that stepped it up and let the vets know not to get too comfortable.
The Receivers Show
Head coach Mike McCoy was all over today, really watching and absorbing the performance of every position, especially the receivers. What that resulted in was a fireworks show for the fans. Every time one of the quarterbacks popped off a round with a receiver making a big catch, the crowd replied with a simultaneous "ooooohhhhhh" or a huge round of applause.
The unit upped the ante with a drill that put a cornerback over a receiver to see who wanted the ball more as the offense attempted passes to the corner of the end zone and quick slant routes. Keenan Allen was impressive; undrafted rookie Tyrell Williams stood out; and the show put on by Austin Pettis and Stevie Johnson was incredible.
That being said, the player I am really starting to notice is Demetrius Wilson. A rookie free agent out of Arkansas, this kid is making plays every practice. He is quick, has great hands and is hungry. He is also grateful. In 2013, Wilson tore his ACL in summer practices, so he was out for the entire 2013 season. You cannot help but respect his commitment to rehab and determination to improve. The only thing he is lacking is the bad-boy swagger of the rest of the receiving corps.
When you put Wilson up against Jacoby Jones, Allen, Johnson and Pettis, he comes off like Opie Taylor straight out of Mayberry. But it is understandable considering what he has been through to get to this point in his career. If he can roughen up his edges a little bit, this kid is gonna be dangerous.
The sideline joking ended today for the linemen as things got real and helmets were banging, with the offensive line winning most of the battles. Trevor Robinson took most of the reps at center with Chris Watt on the sideline and looked great protecting the inside and picking up the blitz. He also really took charge of the line and was pointing out potential threats before the snap.
OG Kenny Wiggins and OT Chris Hairston also looked impressive. Unfortunately, Johnnie Troutman continues to struggle. He picks up the first pop but then isn't adjusting to any movement from the defense. With his size (6'4", 330 lbs.) and strength, he should not be getting pushed around so often. You have to wonder if the knee injury he sustained back in December is still holding him back. For an offensive lineman, not having a knee you can rely on is like sending a fireman into an inferno with a garden hose. Troutman is a great utility lineman who works hard and clicks with the starting front men, so I am pulling for him to get back into his groove.
One of the first things buzzing amongst fans was that Melvin Gordon was on the sidelines wearing shorts and a visor instead of a helmet. Also not in pads were Watt and DT Tenny Palepoi. It was later revealed that Palepoi suffered a fractured foot that will cause him to miss the entire 2015 season.
As practice torqued up to playing at 100 percent, more players were getting banged up. Orlando Franklin was down for at least 10 minutes before being taken to the locker room.
Explained McCoy after practice: "Like all training camps, it's a physical camp. There's gonna be bumps and bruises. You saw a few guys go out today it's all part of training camp. All those guys get dinged, they'll get back out there as soon as they can. We'll get them into rehab, whoever it is, not just Melvin (Gordon) but the other guys and as soon as they're ready to go they'll get back out there. They work hard, and like I told the team, it's an opportunity for somebody to step up and take advantage of the reps you get in team (workouts). We're also gonna rest guys just to rest guys too."
All in all, McCoy doesn't seem too worried about it. He repeated several times "It's all part of training camp." He reiterated that guys have to get into football shape and to do that you have to get physical.
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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