SAN DIEGO — The Chargers' 52 regulars and 19 replacements practiced together for the first time Wednesday.
No fistfights. No late hits. No shouting matches. No taunts. No handshakes. No niceties. No casual conversation. No thanks.
"They didn't say anything bad to us," said replacement lineman Dan Rosado. "But then, they didn't say anything to us."
A potentially stormy morning was mild. But make no mistake. Despite two hours of hard hitting under a high sun, there were 52 cold shoulders.
"I remember one time, in the middle of practice, stretching over there in a corner, surrounded by the regulars for the first time," said replacement receiver Al Williams. "I didn't talk to them, and they didn't talk to me. It really felt weird."
Later Williams really felt strange . . . when somebody actually talked to him. It was only about football, and it was only a few seconds. But the man talking was Wes Chandler, Charger player representative.
"I was running a drill, and the guy covering me did real good, and all of a sudden Wes was giving me advice about the pattern, just like we were in training camp," said Williams. "I was shocked. Sometimes it seems like they have forgotten all about it. But then you know they haven't."
"They were all business, strictly business, nothing more," said replacement quarterback Rick Neuheisel. "But then, I guess I expected that."
And that's all Coach Al Saunders had requested.
"The way they handled it is an endorsement for them and the maturity of their leaders," he said of the regulars. "We believed they would act like professionals, and they did, and that's just what we hoped for."
At this stage, and with these kinds of strike wounds, anything more would be hoping for too much.
"Hey, guys aren't going to go out of their way to be overly friendly," said regular guard James FitzPatrick. "But then, guys aren't going to be mean, either. Sunday and Kansas City are going to be here before we know it. We don't have time to be worried about anything else."
Judging by the amount of work parceled out to the replacements Wednesday, only one group of regulars needs to be worried--the cornerbacks. The only replacement who received repetitions with the starting team was cornerback Elvis Patterson, whose 75-yard interception return for a touchdown defeated the Raiders, 23-17, Sunday. When the team went on strike Sept. 22, the starting cornerbacks were Danny Walters and Gill Byrd.
"By the looks of things," Williams said, "Elvis has the best shot of any of us."
Charger coaches will not need to decide anything until Saturday morning, when they must trim the roster to 45. And so they won't.
"Our plan has been to keep our original 45, unless one of them is not in condition or (not) ready to play," said Saunders. "At that point, we would use the other players. We haven't seen them (the regulars) enough to make that decision.
"This is why it would have been advantageous if our players had come in and worked last Friday and Saturday."
The Chiefs, who will play the Chargers at 1 p.m. Sunday at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, worked out with their coaches last Friday. They gained an extra day on the Chargers, who refused to report until Monday.
"We had hoped to be able to evaluate our players last weekend, so we could look at everybody this week," Saunders said. "But now we are still evaluating regulars, so we need to keep our large numbers, which makes it harder to see everybody."
Saunders said he would keep the 19 replacements at least until Tuesday, when the roster must be cut to 55.
While Saunders was explaining that during an afternoon news conference, he decided that would be the last time he would use the word replacement.
"We are one team now. There is no more difference between replacement and regular," he said.
The replacements still aren't sure.
"I looked at today like the first day of school," said Rosado, who, along with the other seven replacement offensive and defensive linemen, is still hurting from the Raider game. "I had a lot of anxiety. I couldn't sleep last night. I got here early. And now, because I'm still tired from Sunday, it looks like I'm not going to give a true showing right away."
Even if he was at top form, Rosado said it probably wouldn't make a lot of difference.
"No matter what I do, I'm not going to be a part of the offensive line for a while," he said. "You've got to sweat and bleed with them until you are a part of them."
Said Don Macek, regular center: "That's exactly right. But we aren't going to bother them. We just can't worry about petty little things that are over with.
"We've been placed in a good spot in the standings, we've got a good opportunity, and we can't let it get away."
"At least," said Williams, smiling, "we got through the day. The first one is always the hardest, right?"
Steve Ortmayer, director of football operations, said the club might sign safety Mike Davis today. Davis, 31, a former Raider, tried out with the team before the strike. He was a starter for the Raiders in Super Bowl XV against Philadelphia and Super Bowl XVIII against Washington, both victories. . . . Starting nose tackle Mike Charles did not practice Wednesday because of a groin pull and will be questionable for Sunday. . . .