SDUT: Walking wounded return

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#GoIrish #Aztecs #SDGulls #Raiders #THFC #RipCity
Staff member
Jun 20, 2005
Chula Vista, CA

By Kevin Acee

November 15, 2005

The field was filled as expected yesterday as the Chargers returned to practice.

All those who were on the sideline going into the bye week were healthy enough to work yesterday – save for left tackle Roman Oben and linebacker Steve Foley.

Their injuries have long been considered severe enough to keep them out possibly another week or more, and the timetable for their return remains a question today. Coach Marty Schottenheimer said both could practice tomorrow.

Or maybe not.

Oben, who was injured Oct. 30 against Kansas City and did not start the most recent game at New York, tore the plantar fascia muscle in his left foot. When he does return, Oben will have to play through some level of pain. It would appear to be a matter of whether he can support his 300-plus pounds and make the moves necessary at his position for an entire game.

The condition of Foley's strained abdominal muscle might be even more of an unknown. He said he feels better, but perhaps not well enough yet to rush the passer effectively.

"We'll see what I can do," said Foley, who has missed the past two games. "If I'm not to the point where I can go out and wrestle 6-8, 320(-pound) guys and be able to be fluid, I won't go out and hurt my team."

Also, linebacker Randall Godfrey returned to practice yesterday. He missed the Chargers' most recent game while attending to family matters after the death of his sister.

Smart money
The average value of punter Mike Scifres' re-tooled contract is $1.9 million a year, which includes $2 million in new money between now and the end of the 2007 season and $5.2 million over the life of the four-year extension.

That makes Scifres the league's top-paid punter by about $400,000 a year. And while football contracts are not guaranteed, the likelihood of Scifres being injured or his performance dropping off and his being released is smaller than for a position player.

Part of the beauty of the contract for the Chargers, besides the fact they have locked up one of the league's top punters through 2011, is that $500,000 of the new money counts toward this year's salary cap.

The Chargers are already among the best-sitting teams under the salary cap going into next year. Depending on what the cap is in 2006, the Chargers could be anywhere from $16 million to $20 million or more under the cap.

On the ball
Schottenheimer hopes there will not be more games like the Chargers' most recent one, in which they lost the ball twice and did not force a turnover.

In three of the Chargers' four losses this season, they lost the turnover battle. In the other loss, each team turned the ball over twice.

"Our ball security . . . is not acceptable," Schottenheimer said.

It is not just the offense. The defense has just six interceptions, tied for seventh-fewest in the NFL, and five forced fumbles, tied for fifth-fewest.

The Chargers' minus-3 turnover ratio (11 takeaways, 14 giveaways) ranks 19th in the league.

To that end, the coaches are making the prevention and creation of turnovers a point of emphasis.

"A year ago at this time we were plus-8," Schottenheimer said. "That is the No. 1 thing. If we can win the giveaway/takeaway, we'll win games."

Field position
Turnovers are not all that have Schottenheimer cranky.

"I've probably been more cantankerous over the past three weeks than I've been all year," he said.

He blamed his mood on the kicking game, particularly his team's inability to squelch big kickoff returns consistently. With the NFL's leading kick returner in Buffalo's Terrence McGee (31.1-yard average) looming Sunday, Schottenheimer has put his coverage unit on notice.

"We're going to get it fixed or we're going to change people," he said.

Who's the QB?
Kelly Holcomb was still having headaches the day after suffering a concussion in Buffalo's 14-3 win over Kansas City.

Coach Mike Mularkey said he hasn't determined whether Holcomb or J.P. Losman will start in San Diego on Sunday. Mularkey said that Holcomb's health and how much he can practice this week will factor into his decision.