Young Wilhelm making progress

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

The games might have appeared meaningless – and in the big picture they were – but Matt Wilhelm was in no position to treat them as such.

When you're a young linebacker and playing time is harder to find than a parking place at the beach, you try to capitalize on whatever opportunities you might get.

Wilhelm has had two such chances, one in last year's season finale against Kansas City, the other in Thursday's exhibition opener at Green Bay. Two insignificant games – but not to Wilhelm.

It was the Ohio native's chance to shine, and that's exactly what he did. Against the Chiefs he had five tackles and his first career interception, and against the Packers he forced two fumbles, recovered one, and led the team with eight tackles.

"The play of Matt Wilhelm (on Thursday) was really excellent for us," coach Marty Schottenheimer said yesterday as the Chargers resumed training camp at Chargers Park. "(He) was clearly outstanding.

"I think he's making real good progress. He's very instinctive, he's a bright young man and he runs well. He needs an opportunity to play some, certainly."

That can be difficult when you're backing up a durable veteran like Donnie Edwards, but for one week anyway, Edwards sat with an ankle injury.

"I jumped at the opportunity," Wilhelm said. "It's very unfortunate that Donnie wasn't able to play, but for me to go out there and show what I can do and show that I'm a viable linebacker in this league and I can play at this level . . . just goes to show that I'll be a great backup for a great linebacker. If my number needs to get called throughout the season, they have someone they can count on."

The 6-foot-2, 254-pound Wilhelm, 24, was drafted in the fourth round in 2003. But if he's off to a bit of a slow start as a pro – he was active for only two of his first 25 games before playing in the final seven last year – it's familiar territory. The same thing happened at Ohio State, and he ended up as an All-Big Ten linebacker on the Buckeyes' 2002 national championship team.

"Kind of finding your niche is what it comes down to," Wilhelm said. "At Ohio State I was kind of bumped around as a freshman, played a little bit, sat a little bit, took my bumps and bruises as a starter as a sophomore and then I got comfortable within the defense as a junior and then really took off as a senior. I do feel some similarities here.

"I guess you could say it's just starting to click and I'm getting very comfortable out there. I'm seeing things much more clearly and my thought process is a lot faster because I'm sure of what I'm doing; I'm not having to think."

Nuts 'n' Bolts
Fewer than 3,000 tickets remain for the Chargers' home exhibition opener one week from today against St. Louis, and even fewer remain for the season opener Sept. 11 against Dallas, the club said. Tickets for the latter game are available only by purchasing a Rams-Cowboys two-game package or by buying season tickets. The Rams exhibition will be blacked out on local TV if it does not sell out by 1 p.m. Thursday.

Kicker Nate Kaeding, who missed three field goal attempts in Green Bay, said he appreciates the support of his coach and teammates but added, "This is about me. This is a problem that I created for myself. I've got an easy job. My job is to go out and kick the ball between the uprights. The only one that can remedy this problem is me, and I'm looking forward to the challenge and going out there again Sunday."

Injury report: Schottenheimer said defensive end DeQuincy Scott will miss 1-2 weeks with a thigh bruise, while defensive end Luis Castillo (ribs) will be out a few days. Considered day-to-day are wide receiver Vincent Jackson (Achilles' tendinitis) and linebacker Shaun Phillips (bruised chest). Linebacker Shawne Merriman suffered cramps during a conditioning run yesterday but said he would be OK. Among those expected back at practice this week are Edwards, wide receiver Malcom Floyd, tight end Ryan Krause and tackle Courtney VanBuren.