SAN DIEGO -- After a year dealing with a nagging toe injury that would not allow him to practice during the regular season, San Diego Chargers receiver Eddie Royal is pleased to be back on the practice field on a regular basis.
"It's very important," Royal said. "I'm seeing that now. Just the little improvements I've made with my footwork, and other little things that I wasn't able to do last year -- the ins and outs of running routes based on different coverages -- it's been big for me so far."
Royal injured the toe against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 6 of the regular season. He usually did not practice during the week -- missing just one game in 2013 -- but still remained productive for the Chargers.
In 2013, Royal finished with 47 receptions for 631 yards -- his best season in San Diego. Royal totaled eight touchdowns last season, including six in the red zone, a place the Chargers struggled to consistently score.
Red zone offense has been a point of emphasis for the Chargers during the offseason. The Virginia Tech product also reduced his salary by $1 million during the offseason in order to help San Diego retain some key free agents like middle linebacker Donald Butler.
Royal, will earn $3.5 million in guaranteed total compensation for the upcoming season, and becomes a free agent next year. The 28-year-old receiver has built a good rapport with quarterback Philip Rivers, and has been an effective receiver in the slot for the Chargers.
Royal said one of the focuses for his team this offseason is re-creating that family-type atmosphere that helped to lead the Chargers to the playoffs for the first time since 2009 last season.
"Right now is when you come together and develop your identity as a team," Royal said. "You always want to be that hard-working team -- a family. We're out here competing against one another and fighting. But it's really bringing us closer together as a group.
"At the end of the day you want to be called a family. And I think we're building that right now."
Royal hosted his first football camp in San Diego this offseason. Royal has conducted camps the last four years in his native Virginia, but wanted to offer something similar for kids here.
"The camp was great," he said. "I had a great time with all of the little kids. They were so excited to be out there, and just play the game. You really saw the innocence and the joy of just being out there, running around and playing football.
"I got about 20 to 30 hugs a day, just a little kid running up to you, hugging your legs and saying thank you for being out there."