Robert Meachem outruns Washington Redskins safety LaRon Landry for a touchdown. (Gerald Herbert / Associated…)
NFL receiver Robert Meachem now has had a few weeks to weigh the comparison San Diego sports fans have long been stuck assessing.
Drew Brees or Philip Rivers?
Tennessee product Meachem, 27, signed a four-year contract with the San Diego Chargers in March, succeeding Vincent Jackson as Rivers' main target after averaging 43 catches a year — and winning a Super Bowl — with Brees from 2009 to 2011 in New Orleans.
The Chargers open their NFL exhibition season Thursday night at Qualcomm Stadium against the Green Bay Packers.
Why leave the Saints?
"A better opportunity to catch a lot of balls, to be the guy you want to be. To leave the legacy you want to leave in this game, you have to do something that's never been done before. We had a lot of guys getting a lot of balls in New Orleans. Seeing how Vincent Jackson did here, how Malcom Floyd and Antonio Gates got a lot of touches — those guys all had great numbers. It's a great situation for me. Being here, I've never seen Philip throw a ball trying to get a receiver killed. And if there's a breakdown, he gets mad at himself."
What's the difference between Rivers and Brees?
"Height. That's it. They're both like coaches on the field. They take the time to make sure the system runs well."
If you were Chargers General Manager A.J. Smith, you would've picked Rivers too?
"That's a tough decision for anybody. New Orleans, with Drew, was a great home for me. This is a new experience, and I'm sure the change will be better working with Philip. He throws this sidearm ball that looks like it's going to someone else, and the next thing you know you're catching it."
Gates recently said he was pleased to see guys in the locker room who were thinking 'team first' and not distracted by their own contract situation. That seemed to be a clear shot at Vincent Jackson, and praise for you?
"I'm team first. All I want to do is win. I don't want to do anything crazy, anything just about me. I believe if the locker room is together … during the course of the season, and every game, you need all of the guys. Some guys may have individual goals, but you can't accomplish individual goals by thinking about them, by being selfish. I'm just sitting back and observing here. I learned from a guy like Joe Horn. The things I've learned are to take the coaching, get deep in your playbook and help the team."
The Chargers will be asking more of you than the Saints did. How did you improve in recent years?
"My speed, and yards after the catch. I'm getting older but better. I feel like I'll have a career year. If you don't expect that, you're crazy. It's like Floyd Mayweather says, 'I don't expect to lose.' "
The AFC West is tough, with Peyton Manning now in Denver, Kansas City healthy a year after winning the division, and Carson Palmer getting the entire off-season to get up to speed with Oakland's playbook and personnel. Where do you guys fit?
"This is the NFL, every game is tough. But you can't worry about the other teams. All you can do is worry about your role with this team. Since we're a passing offense and I'm a wide receiver, I feel good."
What do you think about the penalties the Saints will suffer this season because of the bounty program?
"I was on offense, so I didn't see anything like that. To me, it's like when you're in elementary school. The teachers tell you to do something, you do it. The coaches tell you to go hit a guy, you do it. Nobody got put out of a game with a personal foul. No one was ejected. It wasn't a bunch of late hits. It seems unfair."
Do you feel for a guy like linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who is suspended for the season pending an injunction request?
"He has a family. To suspend a guy a whole year, that takes a lot of money out of a guy's pocket. Not a lot of money in this game is guaranteed. You're taking a year's pay away from this guy, when we're trying to play for our grandkids' grandkids, you know?"
Chargers at Saints on Sunday night, Oct. 7, a big game for you?
"I was taught to treat a game just like every other one. Yes, I know it'll be hyped up. I feel like both of us will have good seasons. They try to get you to say stuff that'll backfire on you. I'm not going to do that. I'll stay humble and play the best I can."