Maybe it's a good thing that not many people are talking about the San Diego Chargers' return to Home Depot Center for a second training camp, which begins today at 3:30 p.m.
That's because if more people did, the Chargers' dismal 4-12 record from last season and their poor track record of four winning seasons in 20 years under Spanos family ownership would certainly be topics of conversation.
"Everyone is picking us last, so the only thing we can do is go out and prove people wrong," San Diego General Manager A.J. Smith said Thursday. "Carolina did it."
The Panthers went from one victory in 2001 to the Super Bowl last season.
"I'm not predicting that for us, but if it happened to them, it can happen to anyone in the league," Smith said. "So why can't we do it?"
If the Chargers are to turn things around, they will start by crawling under the radar.
Other than All-Pro running back LaDainian Tomlinson and unsigned rookie quarterback Philip Rivers, there's not much of interest on Coach Marty Schottenheimer's team.
"We have to reestablish ourselves as a winning football team," said Schottenheimer, who is 12-20 with the Chargers, including 5-19 over the last 24 games.
"Obviously, we don't want to be in the situation where we have to deal with the type of record we had a year ago," he said.
Getting Rivers in camp would be a good start. Rivers, who was selected fourth by the New York Giants and then traded to San Diego for No. 1 pick Eli Manning, is looking to be paid like the first pick of the draft.
Manning agreed to a six-year deal with the Giants on Thursday that includes a $20-million signing bonus. With incentives, the deal could be worth $54 million.
"I'm optimistic about our negotiations and getting a deal done," said Smith, who also has to sign defensive lineman Igor Olshansky, their second-round pick. "We are talking and moving forward and that's a good sign.... I don't see it being a problem."
When the Chargers opened camp a year ago, they were looking for a new identity after the departure of key veteran defensive players Junior Seau and Rodney Harrison. They counted on quarterback Drew Brees and wideout David Boston to fill that void.
Unfortunately for Schottenheimer, that did not happen. Brees struggled with consistency and was benched in favor of Doug Flutie for five games. Boston was an underachiever.
Now, Brees will battle Rivers for the starting job and Boston is in Miami trying to salvage his career.
At least the Chargers do not begin camp this year with unresolved stadium issues in San Diego.
Thanks to an agreement reached with the city this month, the Chargers have a deal to play in San Diego through the 2008 season.
The Chargers will practice at Home Depot Center until Aug. 26.
They will have one practice today, but two-a-day workouts start Saturday. Admission is free. Parking is $2.50 at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
Single game tickets to all 10 Charger home games will go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday and can be purchased at Home Depot Center, Qualcomm Stadium, TicketMaster outlets and www.chargers.com.