NFL Nation: Bob Sanders

Indianapolis Colts season wrap-up

January, 15, 2014
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Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 8
Preseason Power Ranking: 10

Biggest surprise: The questions were valid. Was linebacker Robert Mathis' production a product of having sack-machine Dwight Freeney playing on the other side? Could Mathis still be an impact player without Freeney? Mathis silenced the naysayers when he led the league in sacks with 19.5, including seven strip sacks. Mathis didn't hide the fact that he wanted to quiet the doubters. What made his season even more special is that he did it without much help elsewhere, as the Colts had only 42 sacks as a team. Mathis is one of the front-runners to be the league's defensive player of the year.

Biggest disappointment: Safety LaRon Landry was supposed to have the same kind of impact Bob Sanders had when he played for the Colts. That's why general manager Ryan Grigson signed him to four-year, $24 million contract. Landry was good when he was able to come up with the big hits or touchdown-saving tackles, but it was too often that he ended up whiffing on a play. The plays on which he missed running back Jamaal Charles on a touchdown run in the regular-season game against Kansas City and New England's LeGarrette Blount on his touchdown run last weekend are two examples that quickly come to mind. It also doesn't help that Landry missed four games because of injury this season.

Biggest need: Help on both lines -- offensive and defensive -- should be at the top of Grigson's list during the offseason. The Colts are set at offensive tackle with Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus. Donald Thomas will be back to take one of the guard spots after he missed most of the season with a quad injury, but the other guard spot and center could use upgrades. The Colts need a defensive tackle who can clog the middle of the line.

Team MVP: This is a no-brainer. Quarterback Andrew Luck was mentioned as a league MVP candidate at one point in the season. The second-year quarterback overcame injuries to five key offensive starters -- including future Hall of Fame receiver Reggie Wayne -- to cut his interceptions in half, increase his completion percentage and throw the same number of touchdown passes despite 52 fewer attempts. Take Luck out of the lineup and the Colts would have won maybe six games this season.

 
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The gut feeling is Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen survives Tuesday’s meeting with owner Mark Davis, a self-described patient man who, nonetheless, wants to see progress in the wake of back-to-back 4-12 seasons in which the Raiders lost eight of their last nine games both years.

Allen
As a league source told ESPN.com last week, “Dennis Allen is the coach until he’s no longer the coach. The only people firing Dennis Allen right now are the media.”

But could Allen walk out of the sit-down unemployed? Yes, especially if he essentially fires himself by falling on the sword on behalf of his staff.

Only two of Allen’s assistants from this past season -- offensive coordinator Greg Olson and linebackers coach Bob Sanders -- have contracts for 2014. Though Allen wants to re-up the assistants he wants to retain for two years, Davis is only willing to go one year, a different league source said.

Who seems most worthy of such job security and would be essential to the continuity Oakland so desperately needs?

Let’s start with defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, who has shown flashes, defensive line coach Terrell Williams, special teams coordinator Bobby April, assistant head coach/offensive line coach Tony Sparano, quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo and running backs coach Kelly Skipper.

If Davis is unwilling to bend, it would seemingly corner Allen. Plus, with the Raiders about to have some $60-plus million to spend in free agency, what kind of message would that send to free agents? It would be hard to tell quality players to commit to Oakland long-term if the coaching staff and its philosophy are relative short-timers.

Or, imagine courting and signing a prototypical 4-3, hand-in-the-dirt speed-rushing defensive end for 2014, and then firing the staff and a new coach switches to a 3-4 defense. Same thing with a press-cornerback who then has to learn how to play soft zone. It just won’t work.

Thinking out loud here, but if that is indeed the case, Davis should go ahead and part with Allen now to bring in a new coach with a new staff and new schemes to impress upon free agents going forward. And that's not considering the feelings of general manager Reggie McKenzie.

No, I’m not advocating one position over the other. There are seemingly as many pros as cons to each scenario.
SAN DIEGO -- Indianapolis Colts safety Antoine Bethea is in his eighth season in the NFL. He’s watched as teammates have departed during that time.

Marvin Harrison. Bob Sanders. Dwight Freeney. Jeff Saturday. Peyton Manning.

That’s why Bethea isn’t buying into the hype surrounding Manning’s return to Indianapolis with the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

“We see players come and go all the time,” Bethea told ESPN.com. “We have to go out there and just play ball. I don’t think it’s going to be weird. The media is going to make a big hoopla about him coming back to Indy.”

Manning spent 14 seasons with the Colts, leading them to two Super Bowl appearances before the team released him in 2012.

The Colts have to quickly regroup from Monday’s loss to San Diego because all eyes will be on Lucas Oil Stadium when Manning and the undefeated Denver Broncos visit in what should be one of the most watched games of the season.

Manning appears to be on his way to picking up his fifth MVP trophy. He’s passed for 2,179 yards, 22 touchdowns and only two interceptions while completing 74.2 percent of his attempts this season.

“I’m not surprised at all,” Bethea said. “He’s been playing that way his whole career. You’d be a fool to say you’re surprised. We’re really going to have to be on top of things next week. He’s a mastermind of what he does.”
Romeo Crennel might soon be back in the NFL.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting the former Kansas City head coach might join New Orleans’ staff as defensive coordinator or in another role with the team. I was told recently that Crennel, 65, is still interested in coaching and would put off retirement if the right job comes up. Perhaps it will be in New Orleans.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs added former longtime NFL defensive back Al Harris to their staff as an assistant secondary coach. Harris played in Philadelphia for new coach Andy Reid, and he played in Green Bay with new Kansas City general manager John Dorsey.

The Chiefs also added Mark DeLeone as a quality control coach and kept assistant strength and conditioning coach Brent Salazar.

In other AFC West news:

The Raiders have filled their coaching staff with the hiring of longtime NFL assistant Bob Sanders as linebackers coach. He was Buffalo’s linebackers coach last season, and was Green Bay’s defensive coordinator from 2006-08. This hire gives Oakland’s staff more experience. This year’s staff, as a whole, is more experienced than last year’s staff.

Kansas City Pro Bowl punter Dustin Colquitt told the Kansas City Star he wants to stay with the Chiefs. Like Oakland punter Shane Lechler, Colquitt is a free agent. Right now, the general consensus is Colquitt has a stronger chance of returning to his team than Lechler does.

GQ Magazine has a look at former Raiders’ defensive lineman Anthony Smith, who is accused of multiple murders.

The San Francisco Chronicle offers a transcript of a radio interview conducted by Oakland coach Dennis Allen.
Bob Sanders is long gone, and injury-prone Melvin Bullitt is not with the Indianapolis Colts anymore.

Indianapolis has a dire need at strong safety, where the Colts platooned David Caldwell and Joe Lefeged last season after Bullitt was lost early on with a shoulder injury.

They need an upgrade next to free safety Antoine Bethea, a strong player against both the pass and the run.

According to ESPN Stats and Info, the Colts defense was last in the NFL on throws more than10 air yards inside the numbers in three important categories: completion percentage (72.7), yards per attempt (16.1) and attempts per TD (7.9).

Better defense on short passes over the middle is an absolute necessity for the Colts if they are going to be more effective under first-year coach Chuck Pagano and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.

Safety is thin in the draft, and strong safety is particularly thin. Possible candidates include South Carolina's Antonio Allen (fourth or fifth round projection), Alabama's DeQuan Menzie (fifth), Arkansas State's Kelcie McCray (fifth), LSU's Brandon Taylor (sixth).

Can one of those guys start on opening day? It'll probably take a good combination of scouting projecting and coaching to make it happen.
The Broncos’ first foray into free agency wasn’t the big hit they were waiting for, but it does fill a hole in Denver.

The Broncos agreed to a two-year deal with Cleveland safety Mike Adams, who fills Denver’s need for a veteran safety.

Adams has a chance to start for Denver. He played 77 percent of the defensive snaps for the Browns last season. With Brian Dawkins likely not returning -- Denver isn't expected to bring him back if he doesn’t retire -- Adams gives the Broncos much-needed experience at safety.

The team drafted Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter last season. Moore began the season as a starter, but he regressed. By the end of the season, Carter was by far the better player. The team still has hopes for Moore, but Adams offers insurance if either youngster struggles.

In other AFC West safety news:

Steve Gregory, formerly of San Diego, agreed to terms with New England. Gregory was an injury replacement for Bob Sanders last year. Gregory is probably a bit underrated, and his departure will have the Chargers looking for a partner for Eric Weddle early in the upcoming NFL draft.

Alabama’s Mark Barron and Notre Dame’s Harrison Smith are possibilities for the Chargers in the draft.

Breaking down Colts as they break down

October, 27, 2011
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Peyton ManningDerick E. Hingle/US PresswireThe Colts were clearly ill-prepared for life without star quarterback Peyton Manning.
It’s ugly in Indianapolis.

At 0-7, the Colts are talking about sticking together, improving and giving themselves a chance to win.

But as they prepare for a trip to Nashville for a Sunday meeting with the Titans at LP Field, they are a severely broken team. Where they would be with Peyton Manning is an interesting hypothetical question, but we’re dealing with realities. And those realities are the sort that will test the franchise’s stitching -- seamwork that might not hold together when this is all over.

Who’s at fault? Everyone’s got a hand in it, but let’s look at the Colts from a couple different angles.

A big cover-up: It’s not a secret that Manning has helped cover up a lot of flaws and allowed the franchise to under-address certain areas.

The Colts during the Manning era have never been much concerned with size, always valuing speed and instincts more. They’ve never worried about stocking special teams with any veteran backups, in part because they spend their money on stars, or adding a high-quality return man. They’ve settled for being below average running the ball. And they’ve won despite a general inability to stop the run.

Without their four-time MVP running the offense, all of those things are magnified in ways they’ve never been before.

It shouldn’t be a surprise. They’re built to have Manning at the controls, and he’s been there all the time from the very beginning in 1998 until opening day this season.

There are maybe two teams and markets in the league that would not trade for what the Colts have done since 1999. Twelve consecutive playoff seasons followed by one complete dud? Where do I sign up for that?

[+] EnlargeJacob Lacey
Michael Hickey/US PresswirePersonnel decisions by the Colts put cornerback Jacob Lacey, 27, in a prominent role in a secondary that has struggled this season.
Construct questions: That said, regardless of a serious neck surgery to the star quarterback, what exactly was the plan in the secondary? Is an evaluation that leaves Jacob Lacey, Terrence Johnson, Kevin Thomas and Chris Rucker as cornerbacks No. 2 through 5 good enough? Absolutely not.

The Colts get credit for adding a couple outside veterans this season -- linebacker Ernie Sims and defensive ends Jamaal Anderson and Tyler Brayton. But the drafting has dropped off.

Set aside the most recent class, as it’s too early to judge.

The Colts drafted 41 players from 2005 through 2010. I count one star, safety Antoine Bethea, and two guys who can become stars, linebacker Pat Angerer and receiver Austin Collie (if he’s working with Manning). Running back Joseph Addai is a good fit who does more than people think. And receiver Pierre Garcon and cornerback Jerraud Powers have been pretty solid starters.

Sure, the Colts drafted higher in the five years before. Still, those classes produced five guys who rank among the best players of their generation at their positions: tight end Dallas Clark, defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, safety Bob Sanders and receiver Reggie Wayne. The next tier provided steady starters on the offensive line (Jake Scott, Ryan Diem) and linebacker (David Thornton).

That list is more than a third of a starting team, a big-time core. As those guys age or disappear, I'm not seeing a core in waiting.

Colts president turned vice chairman Bill Polian said recently on his radio show that they needed to have done better recently, particularly at defensive tackle and cornerback.

And there is a domino effect to the problem. Find Tarik Glenn’s ultimate replacement at left tackle in 2007, and then you don’t need to use your top pick in 2011 on Anthony Castonzo. Hit on Donald Brown in the first round in 2009, and Delone Carter might not be necessary in the fourth round in 2011.

The Polians: Bill Polian has been pulling back and yielding responsibility to his son, GM Chris Polian. (Chris politely declined to be interviewed for this piece.)

We don’t yet have much tape on Chris Polian, so to speak. Bill Polian is a good talent evaluator who’s had success in three NFL stops and has done well to build a team Manning has won with. But Bill Polian has also overseen those recent draft drop-offs.

His strong-willed personality is part of what has made him good at his job, and his big-picture assessment of important league issues is as intelligent as anyone’s. He’s got clout and influence that extends beyond Indianapolis.

Stylistically, he’s a stubborn and demanding boss. There are indications from within that, without the steady stream of personnel hits he provided earlier in his tenure, some inside the building are tiring of the way things are run.

Polian talked recently about how Curtis Painter's play vindicates the team for having faith in him, but failed to mention that the faith was so strong that the team signed Kerry Collins to a $4 million contract shortly before the season started and handed him the starting job.

I suspect Bill Polian’s got the backing of owner Jim Irsay for as long as he wants it. That would ensure safety for Chris Polian, too.

Bill Polian made the Manning-over-Ryan Leaf call in 1998. Because of the way Leaf busted, people forget that was a coin flip at the time, that Leaf was regarded as a big-time prospect just as much as Manning was. Polian called it correctly, built a team that’s been to two Super Bowls and won one, got a new stadium built and greatly enhanced the value of Irsay’s franchise.

Cryptic messages: Further complicating things is Irsay, who clearly gets a kick out of being the center of NFL attention in the Twitter-verse but has undermined some of his people with it.

He announced the team added Collins while coach Jim Caldwell was conducting his daily news conference. It did Caldwell no favors, as he appeared completely out of the loop.

Most recently, following the 62-7 loss in New Orleans on Sunday night, Irsay provided this gem:
“Titanic collapse, apologies 2 all ColtsNation...problems identifiable;solutions in progress but complex in nature/ better days will rise again”

A day later, he added:
"Just because you perceive problems on the horizon,and you possess solutions..doesn't mean they are avoidable and implementation is instant"

Solutions in progress, but complex in nature. That sounds to me like what would be written in big silver letters on the lobby wall of a consulting company on a TV show. Or a clever, but far-too-long name for a band.

It also sounds like change is going to come.

Caldwell
Caldwell
Coaching questions: While Bill Polian recently said that adding Jim Tressel to the staff as a replay consultant was Caldwell’s idea, it’s a weird looking move that’s made some of us wonder if a bigger role awaits the former Ohio State coach.

Caldwell does a nice job managing personalities, looking at things philosophically and staying on message. I believe he’s a good teacher and his patient, quiet style is generally healthy for a team with a good share of veteran stars.

But he’s got blind spots, too, and is hardly a strategy master. There are bound to be significant changes at the conclusion of what’s sure to be a dreadful season, and he’ll be at the front of the line.

If he does the best job we can remember at holding a terrible, ineffective team together, is that enough? I’d guess not.

Injuries: This team gets hurt too much. There is a huge element of bad luck to it, of course. But is there something bigger at work as well?

Last season as quality players went down, Manning helped some role players like tight end Jacob Tamme and receiver Blair White emerge. This season, guys like linebacker Gary Brackett and safety Melvin Bullitt were lost for the season early, and there's been a revolving door on the offensive line because of injuries.

The Colts are constantly testing their depth and shuffling the back end of their roster. There is only so much shuffling a depth chart can handle.

I believe they need to attempt some change that might have a positive effect on their overall health -- whether it be adopting new training philosophies, altering how they evaluate prospects or changing personnel philosophies.

It's easy to ask them to figure out why they tend to suffer so many injuries and hard to find an answer. But some sort of shift is due, even as we know it comes with no guarantee of better health.

When the current approach is failing, it's OK to try something else. It's not admitting some sort of failure, it's merely part of a necessary process of evaluating and revising operations.

Suck for Luck: Given a chance to draft Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, I think the Colts would. Bill Polian can give Chris Polian the guy expected to be the NFL's next great quarterback, and Chris Polian's legacy would be built on a fantastic cornerstone.

But there is no losing on purpose to get in position for Luck. You think Wayne or Mathis is interested in such a master plan?

Said veteran center and team tone-setter Jeff Saturday: “'I'll steal a Robert Mathis quote: I ain't sucking for anybody.”

Bob Sanders' body betrays him again

September, 28, 2011
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You have to think Bob Sanders' NFL career is over.

[+] EnlargeBob Sanders
Christopher Hanewinckel/US PresswireBob Sanders' NFL career may be over after being put on the injured reserve.
After playing just nine games total in the past three years for the Indianapolis Colts, Sanders' season with the San Diego Chargers ended after two games. Sanders, who missed Sunday’s game against Kansas City, was put on the injured reserve Wednesday. That means four straight seasons have ended on the injured reserve for the hard-hitting, playmaking safety. He has played just 11 games since the 2007 season when he was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

San Diego general manger A.J. Smith made it clear in a statement that the Sanders’ experiment is over in San Diego.

“All we wished for Bob was good health and hoped to turn him loose to do his thing, which was being one great, physical, highly-competitive player,” Smith said. “It didn’t work out for him or us, and we wish him the very best. He was with us a very short time, but made a positive impact with our team in many ways, and I’ll always appreciate that.”

The Chargers knew they were taking a chance on Sanders and the deal was very team friendly. But they liked Sanders and they wanted him to be a big part of the defense. They expected him and fellow safety Eric Weddle to create a special tandem.

When I spoke to Smith about Sanders, Smith said all Sanders needed was “health.” He didn’t get it. I met Sanders during the summer and he is easy to root for. He said he was due for some good health and he was thrilled to get the chance in San Diego. When healthy this summer, Sanders was fast and he looked good.

But, in the end, his body betrayed him again.

The Chargers, who are getting used to injuries, will use Steve Gregory with Weddle along with some other young players. Gregory is serviceable, but a healthy Sanders could have been special.

Meanwhile, the Chargers brought in another veteran defender. Defensive tackle Tommie Harris replaces Sanders on the roster.

Harris was cut both by Chicago and Indianapolis this year. The Chargers want a veteran to fill the gap in the rotation for the next few weeks. Luis Castillo will be out for several weeks with a broken leg and Jacques Cesaire will be out for several weeks with a knee injury. Rookie defensive wend Corey Liuget missed last week’s game with an ankle injury. He was practicing some Wednesday. Still, it is not known if he can play against the Dolphins. The Chargers will take anything Harris can give him at this point.
The Indianapolis Colts' defense made a strong showing against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday night without linebacker Gary Brackett and safety Melvin Bullitt.

Any further strong efforts will also have to come without the two starters, as the team put them both on injured-reserve Wednesday with their shoulder injuries.

One of the roster spots made room for quarterback Dan Orlovsky. The other was used for A.J. Edds, who was signed off the New England Patriots' practice squad. Edds played in the Patriots’ first two games before he was cut and signed to the practice squad.

The Colts are better equipped to deal with the loss of Brackett than Bullitt, even as Bullitt was not off to a good start.

Pat Angerer slid from the strong side to the middle with Brackett out since the opener, and Angerer made 20 tackles from the spot against Pittsburgh Sunday while Philip Wheeler stepped in as the third linebacker.

But David Caldwell, who replaced Bullitt in the starting lineup in Week 3 for his first NFL start, was not as good.

The Colts were depleted at the strong safety spot opposite free safety Antoine Bethea in the center of the defensive backfield last season when Bob Sanders and Bullitt were both lost to injuries. Ultimately they turned to Aaron Francisco, who wasn’t even on the opening day roster.

They released Sanders after the season, and he’s now in San Diego. They re-signed Bullitt, an unrestricted free agent, and now will turn to Caldwell or another player they didn’t draft, rookie Joe Lefeged.

Defensive depth has taken a serious hit just three weeks in. And with Peyton Manning, Brackett and Bullitt all out of action, they’ve got some big dollars out of the lineup.

UPDATE: Ironically, San Diego put Sanders (knee) on IR Wednesday as well.

Malcom Floyd active for Chargers

September, 25, 2011
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SAN DIEGO -- In a surprise move, San Diego has activated receiver Malcom Floyd for Sunday's game against Kansas City.

He was listed as doubtful on the injury report. He did not practice all week after hurting his groin at New England last week. The Chargers have activated all six of their receivers, likely in case if Floyd suffers a setback. Rookie receiver Vincent Brown is expected to make his NFL debut.

As expected, San Diego will be without tight end Antonio Gates because of a foot injury. Also, as expected, San Diego safety Bob Sanders is inactive with a knee injury. San Diego rookie defensive end Corey Liuget is inactive with an ankle injury.

Kansas City first-round pick, receiver Jon Baldwin, is inactive for the third straight game with a thumb injury he reportedly suffered in a fight with teammate Thomas Jones five weeks ago. Baldwin did begin to practice on a limited basis last week.

Chargers' health woes continue

September, 22, 2011
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The San Diego Chargers’ injury situation did not improve Thursday.

Receiver Vincent Jackson joined the five key players who did not practice Wednesday on the sideline Thursday. Friday will be a crucial day for all of them pertaining to their chances of playing against visiting Kansas City on Sunday.

Along with Jackson, tight end Antonio Gates (foot), running back Mike Tolbert (calf), safety Bob Sanders (knee), defensive end Corey Liuget (ankle) and receiver Malcom Floyd (groin) didn’t practice for the second straight day.

The San Diego Union Tribune reported Thursday that Jackson will play against the Chiefs, but the other players are less certain.

It’s too early for Chargers’ fans to panic about these players’ availability on Sunday. But after this team suffered a string of injuries (Gates and Floyd were among those who were injured often last season) this news has to be a tad unsettling.
Eric WeedleAP Photo/Denis PoroyA lot is expected of San Diego safety Eric Weddle after he re-signed for $40 million.

The two men the San Diego Chargers chose to anchor their defense in 2011 spent their post-lockout time essentially living together.

Eric Weddle, fresh from signing a $40 million dollar contract that kept him in San Diego, was in charge of getting former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Bob Sanders up to speed in the Chargers’ scheme.

“From the moment the lockout ended, we were studying and talking,” Weddle said. “It just wasn’t on the field. It was at breakfast, lunch, dinner. We’d study in the cold tub. We’d stay here to 1 in the morning, talking and getting comfortable with each other. We know how important it is.”

And the extra time spent together has paid off.

“It feels like we’ve been playing together for three or four years,” Weddle said.

The Chargers think their safeties can be among the best in the NFL and can lead them on a deep run in the playoffs. So far, so good. Weddle and Sanders looked to be on the same page as the defense took over in the second half of Week 1, when the Chargers outscored the Minnesota Vikings 17-0 on their way to a 24-17 win.

The two safeties will be paramount for San Diego in a critical AFC matchup at New England on Sunday. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is coming off a 517-yard passing performance at Miami in which his tight ends terrorized the Dolphins' safeties. Weddle and Sanders will be in charge of slowing down that attack this week.

[+] Enlarge Bob Sanders
Christopher Hanewinckel/US Presswire"All I wish for Bob Sanders is health," San Diego general manager A.J. Smith said. "... That's all he needs."
Weddle, 26, and Sanders, 30, are an interesting combination. Both are undersized, intelligent leaders. The players are at completely different phases of their careers, yet both men are in prove-it mode in 2011.

Weddle, a 5-foot-11, 200-pound fifth-year pro, is out to prove that he was worth the monster deal that San Diego re-signed him to early in free agency. Sanders, a 5-8, 206-pound ball of dynamite, signed a short-term deal with the Chargers, wanting to prove he can still play in the league. Sanders, who earned the NFL’s top defensive honor in the 2007 season with Indianapolis, played a total of nine games in the past three seasons with the Colts, who finally gave up on him last winter.

Chargers general manager A.J. Smith, a longtime fan of the relentless Sanders, agreed to terms with Sanders on the eve of the lockout. The deal was finalized right after the lockout ended. Smith envisioned a Weddle-Sanders safety tandem for some time. Some in league circles thought the addition of Sanders meant the Chargers were prepared to move on without Weddle. But this was a package deal.

It’s earning rave reviews.

“Sanders and Weddle is a perfect safety combination,” Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said. “They’re really going to make a difference for the Chargers.”

Safety play is predicated on emotion and desire. The Chargers are benefiting from the fire that burns in each player.

Sanders is bent on proving he is not a fragile former good player.

“I hope my run of bad luck is done,” Sanders said.

Indeed, Sanders is due for some good fortune. In 2008, Sanders was hampered by ankle and knee issues. In 2009, he suffered an arm injury that scuttled his season after the second game. Last year, Sanders suffered a biceps injury in the first game and was out for the season. Sanders believes it’s important to note that he has been the victim of a string of fluky injuries and there are no real structural problems.

His teammates have raved that Sanders looks like he's in his Colts’ heyday. Chargers coach Norv Turner said Sanders flies around the practice field like a “bullet.”

The Chargers know they have a special player in their midst.

“When you played Indianapolis, you always had go find No. 21 and go block him,” San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers said. “It’s good to have him on our side.”

Smith said he has no doubt Sanders will revert to his pre-injury days if he stays on the field.

“All I wish for Bob Sanders is health,” Smith said. “Best of health, Bob. That’s all he needs.”

While Sanders’ season is centered on staying out of the trainer’s room, Weddle’s is about his living up to his beefed-up bank account.

“I know a lot will be expected from me because of this deal,” said Weddle, who is known for his ability to stop the run and making timely interceptions. “That’s fine. That’s part of it.”

In the end, Sanders and Weddle are in it together as they begin their partnership.

“I want Bob to be great and he wants me to be great,” Weddle said. “Because if we are both great, it will only benefit this team.”

Chargers add linebacker Na'il Diggs

September, 3, 2011
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The San Diego Chargers made an interesting pickup Saturday, signing veteran linebacker Na'il Diggs.

He was recently cut by St. Louis. Diggs started 12 games for the Rams last year at strongside linebacker in a 4-3 defense. He can play in a 3-4 defense and the Chargers, who run a 3-4 defense, need some veteran help at inside linebacker.

Diggs, 33, is entering his 11th NFL season. He also played with Green Bay and Carolina. He could potentially push youngster Donald Butler for a starting job. San Diego this offseason has also added veteran linebacker Takeo Spikes and safety Bob Sanders.

The San Diego Union Tribune reports newly signed veteran linebacker Kevin Bentley was cut. Veteran inside linebacker Stephen Cooper is on the bubble.

Three things: Chargers-Seahawks

August, 11, 2011
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Three things to watch for in San Diego’s preseason opener against visiting Seattle on Thursday night. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on ESPN.

Special teams: The San Diego special teams' cost the Chargers a playoff spot last year. The unit was a disaster. New special teams coach Rich Bisaccia has a great reputation and should be able to help this unit. It starts in this game. San Diego head coach Norv Turner raved this week about Bisaccia’s impact on the unit. He expects instant dividends. Turner also said the Chargers have improved their talent at several areas of special teams. So, it’s clear the team is ready to see what this group has to offer against the Seahawks.

Donald Butler and Jonas Mouton: The two young inside linebackers are fighting for a starting point. Butler was a third-round pick last year who missed the entire season with an injury. Mouton was a second-round pick this year. This is a big test for both players as the Chargers look for a replacement for the steady Kevin Burnett, who signed with Miami. If neither Butler nor Mouton plays well, the Chargers may have to consider outside options. But if the youngsters play well, as the team expects, their will chances of further contributions should both increase.

Bob Sanders: The new San Diego safety has played in just nine games in the past three seasons while with the Colts. He is healthy and is expected to be a difference maker for the Chargers’ defense. There was a major buzz about Sanders this week at the team’s training camp. Several people said Sanders still has blazing speed and he is flying around the field. I spoke to Sanders and he is bouncing off the walls. He is excited about being healthy again. We won’t see Sanders a lot Thursday night, but I know he is ready to play again.

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