Well, while it may be hard to believe that training camp is here, get ready to head out to Chargers Park and watch the 2008 San Diego Chargers.
Training camp opens for all players (4 to 6 p.m.) on Friday, July 25, for a team that many say could make its way to Tampa for the next Super Bowl on Feb. 1, 2009. Rookies were due to report earlier this week on Monday.
Finishing last season as AFC West champions at 11-5, the Chargers knocked off Tennessee in their first playoff game, then scored a big win on the road against the defending champion Indianapolis Colts. The season came to an end with a loss in New England.
The off-season saw some comings and goings for the Chargers, most notably was the departure of backup running back Michael Turner, who signed a lucrative deal with the Atlanta Falcons. The team picked up inside linebacker Derek Smith from San Francisco, while adding first-round draft choice Antoine Cason (University of Arizona) at cornerback.
While losing Turner could be a factor, the Chargers return a substantial stable of talented players, including LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Gates, Philip Rivers, Shawne Merriman and Antonio Cromartie.
Throw in the fact that the Chargers compete in one of the weakest divisions in the NFL (Kansas City, Denver and Oakland were a combined 15-33 in 2007), and you can see why optimism is high going into training camp.
But before the season officially kicks off on Sept. 7 at home against Carolina, Charger management and fans will likely acknowledge that the time for winning is now.
In all likelihood, New England will not be able to stay at its high level of play for years to come. Indianapolis also has some question marks on its team. The timing could be right for the Chargers, who are the third-winningest NFL franchise over the last four seasons, to capture the AFC and get to a Super Bowl or two.
If you are headed out to Chargers Park over the next couple of weeks, remember that bleacher seating is available for views of the entire practice field.
Throughout training camp, there will be visits from the 2008 Charger Girls as well as former players. Fans will get the opportunity to meet select players after every practice, while concession stands offer plenty of food and beverage choices along with the latest Chargers merchandise, including shirts, hats and jerseys.
Parking around Chargers Park is limited. On weekdays, parking is available on the street behind (east of) the Holiday Inn located at 3805 Murphy Canyon Road. Overflow parking is available at the Holiday Inn. For weekend and night practices, parking is available in the PS Business Center south of Chargers Park. Parking on Murphy Canyon Road is allowed only on weekends.
There is no shuttle service from the stadium.
On Saturday, Aug. 2, fans can check out FanFest 2008 at Qualcomm Stadium. Players, cheerleaders and more will be a part of the day, beginning at 10 a.m. The final open practice for the public is Thursday, Aug. 14, at 4 p.m.
The Chargers' preseason home schedule includes games against the Dallas Cowboys (Aug. 9) and Seattle Seahawks (ESPN Monday Night Football, Aug. 25), and tickets are still available for both games by logging onto www.Chargers.com or calling Ticketmaster at 619-220-TIXS.
Training Camp Public Practices & Important Dates:
"¢ Friday, July 25, 4-6 p.m. (Opening Day)
"¢ Sat., July 26, 9-10:45 a.m. and 4-6 p.m.
"¢ Sun., July 27, 4-6 p.m. (first practice in Full Pads)
"¢ Sat., Aug. 2, FanFest 2008, 10 am at Qualcomm Stadium
"¢ Wed., Aug. 6, autographs, 6:30-7 p.m. and practice 7-9:20 p.m.
"¢ Sat., Aug. 9, Chargers vs. Dallas Cowboys at Qualcomm Stadium, 7 p.m.
"¢ Sat., Aug. 16, Chargers at St. Louis Rams, 5:00 p.m. PDT
"¢ Mon., Aug. 25, Chargers vs. Seattle Seahawks at Qualcomm Stadium, 5:00 p.m.
"¢ Tues., Aug. 26, Roster reduced to 75 players by 8:45 a.m.
"¢ Fri., Aug. 29, Chargers at San Francisco 49ers, 7 p.m.
"¢ Sat., Aug. 30, Roster reduced to 53 players by 3 p.m.
Practice times are subject to change. Visit www.Chargers.com or call (858) 874-4500 to confirm practice times.