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Chargers' Wiley Happy in Carson

July 23, 2003|From Staff and Wire Reports

Defensive end Marcellus Wiley walked onto the picture-perfect green practice fields at the Home Depot National Training Center on Tuesday afternoon and tried his best to explain why the San Diego Chargers were in Carson and not their traditional training camp at UC San Diego in La Jolla.

"I don't have my politics hat on today, so I don't know what is going on behind the scenes," said Wiley, who grew up in Compton, less than a 15-minute drive from the Home Depot Center. "It's a five-year plan for us to be up here, and I think it's to extend our market. San Diego is our home and I guess this is our guest house."

After spending the previous 27 years at UC San Diego, the Chargers will hold their first official practice at the Home Depot Center today when Coach Marty Schottenheimer puts rookies and selected veterans through their first workouts.

"I don't know if [I've ever coached] in a facility that was brand new," Schottenheimer said about the Home Depot Center, which includes the home stadium for Major League Soccer's Galaxy. "When you have an opportunity to be with a facility at the outset, I think there's an opportunity to grow with it."

The company line for the Chargers is that they changed training camps because they figured that it would help with team bonding. But as long as the Chargers continue to have stadium problems in San Diego and Los Angeles remains without an NFL team, the general feeling is that there's more to the switch in training camp sites.

But does anyone in Los Angeles really care?

Wiley believes so. Or at least he's hoping.

"Everyone in L.A. is excited about it," he said. "They put a lot of money into [the Home Depot Center] and we just want to give them their money's worth.

"We're going to be here for a month and we're going to get those L.A. fans to give their Hollywood dollars to support the Chargers. Instead of flying to Oakland, they can just drive to San Diego."

But at Schottenheimer's news conference Tuesday afternoon, he didn't have to shout over enthusiastic fans excited to have pro football back in L.A.

"We're here with one purpose," Schottenheimer said. "We have a little better than four weeks to go through the process of developing this football team where we can compete for a championship this year."

Schottenheimer doesn't care whether the Chargers draw any fans right now because he plans to work his players throughout camp. Something Wiley believes would be a good thing for the Chargers, who finished 8-8 last season after a 6-1 start.

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The Chargers have signed all but three draft choices and they expect first-round pick Sammy Davis and second-round selections Drayton Florence and Terrence Kiel in uniform before veterans report to camp Friday.... The team will practice daily from 8:20 to 10:20 a.m. and from 3:25 to 5:10 p.m. Workouts will be free to the public with a $2 parking charge.

-- Lonnie White

Quarterback Eric Crouch, the 2001 Heisman Trophy winner, has quit the NFL for the second time in 11 months.

Crouch had hoped to win a job as one of Brett Favre's backups with the Green Bay Packers but Coach Mike Sherman said Crouch had little chance of doing that.

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San Francisco quarterback Jeff Garcia has a protruding disk in his back and could sit out a few of the 49ers' first practices.... Andre Johnson, Houston's first-round draft pick, signed a six-year contract worth nearly $39 million.... The Packers signed free-agent defensive tackle Steve MartinThe Carolina Panthers and third-round draft pick Mike Seidman, a tight end from UCLA, have agreed to a three-year deal worth about $1.4 million.

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