Chargers Notebook: Second fiddle isn't music to Leber's ears

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Oct 14, 2005
North County Times

By: JAY PARIS - Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO ---- The Chargers' Big Ben figures it might be time to move on. Linebacker Ben Leber, who lost his starting job last week to rookie Shawne Merriman, is keeping his options open. After his contract expires at season's end, Leber could flee.

"I feel I'm a starter in this league, and that is what I want to be," Leber said on Friday. "If it's not here, maybe it's somewhere else."

Leber has been a mainstay since being selected in the third round of the 2002 draft. He started 52 games in his career, thanks mostly to his run-stopping abilities.

But it was Merriman, the 12th overall pick last April, who trotted out with the first team in Philadelphia on Sunday. Leber played sparingly, collecting only one tackle.

"It was different, just being at the ready," Leber said. "That's been a change for me."

Same goes with wearing an opposing jersey during practice. But since being bumped by Merriman, Leber runs with the scout team.

That doesn't sit well with Leber, the Kansas State product who was enjoying his best season. He has 22 tackles, and his two sacks are eclipsed only by DeQuincy Scott and Steve Foley on the Chargers' defense. Leber also has a fumble recovery and four tackles for losses, second highest on the team.

"I feel confident and comfortable that I played great in the games that I did start," said Leber, who has 173 tackles and 12 sacks as a Charger. "So right now that is what I'm leaning back on. I made some great plays, but the decision was out of my hands."

But it won't be in the offseason.

"We'll see what happens," Leber said. "I would love to stay here; it's a great city with great people. I've had a lot of fun with this team. And I have seen the worst and I've seen the best. I would love to be here."

As a second-stringer? Nope. Leber doesn't agree with the Chargers' notion that he's of backup quality.

"Any player is not going to agree with it," Leber said. "They have their opinion, and I have mine. I can't change anything. I've got to do whatever I can to be there when they need me. If it's in the cards for me to start here again, that would be great."

Banged-up Bolts

Three starters didn't practice Friday, and they appear doubtful for Sunday's home game against Kansas City, as opposed to their team-listed questionable status.

"If not this week, maybe next week," said cornerback Drayton Florence, whose sprained ankle has sidelined him the last two weeks.

Florence would be replaced by Sammy Davis.

Center Nick Hardwick didn't practice all week. His sprained ankle will likely mean a second consecutive start for Bob Hallen.

Linebacker Steve Foley is trying to get through another week with his abdominal strain. But he said the wear and tear of defending 54 Donovan McNabb passes on Sunday came with a price.

Foley underwent another MRI ---- it showed inflammation and fluid ---- during the week, as his nagging injury continues to test his tolerance for pain.

"Just trying to wait and see how it goes Sunday," a frustrated Foley said. "I want to go out there without doing all the extra stuff (pain-killing shots) that allows me to play. That is something that I can't continue to depend on.

"I would really feel bad about not going; it's a big game for us. It's like a must-win for us."

Foley, whose 2 1/2 sacks ties Scott for the team lead, would be replaced by Shaun Phillips.

Quick hits

RB LaDainian Tomlinson sent to the Pro Football Hall of Fame his game jersey from Week 2, when he ran for a pair of touchdowns against the Broncos. It marked the 14th straight game in which he scored a rushing touchdown, setting an NFL record. That streak ended at 18 on Sunday in Philadelphia. ... WR Reche Caldwell was ill and skipped practice. ... K Nate Kaeding usually kicks on Fridays, but he rested his sore back. P Mike Scifres kicked a 40-yard field goal in practice, the same distance as the one Kaeding had blocked to lose the game against the Eagles. ... TE Ryan Krause (foot) didn't practice and is out for Sunday. ... FB Lorenzo Neal signed his two-year extension through the 2007 season.


Oct 29, 2005

It's kinda interesting. Leber is more in the Donnie Edwards type mode while Merriman is like Foley. The pass rush is still so poor that they almost need Foley and Merriman rushing at the same time.

I'd like to see Leber stick around but Merriman needs to see playing time if he is going to make an impact and if it comes at the expense of Leber, then so be it.


Oct 14, 2005
With Godfrey retiring, Leber could move inside. Our lineup would then be Merriman and Foley outside and Edwards and Leber inside.

Leber is a better run stuffer than pass rusher anyways.

I do hope that we resign and keep him.