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Chargers' Rivers, Turner Discuss Contest Against New Orleans

Posted Oct 3, 2012

San Diego Quarterback Philip Rivers and Head Coach Norv Turner spoke with members of the New Orleans media on Wednesday via conference call

San Diego Chargers Quarterback Philip Rivers

Conference Call With New Orleans Media

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

There is a lot of hype going into this game with Drew Brees having the chance to break the record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass. What are your thoughts on him being able to do that and how you think he’s grown as a quarterback since the two of you were teammates?

“Obviously that’s a lot of games in a row with touchdowns. If something stands for 50 years, it shows what an awesome accomplishment that is. That’s just one of many records and many great things he’s done over an 11-year career. He deserves all the recognition he’s received. I was only with him those two years kind of early in his ascent to where he is today. He was a heck of a player then, obviously before the Super Bowl and the other great things he’s done since he’s come to New Orleans. It’s certainly been impressive to see.”

Besides how long the record’s stood, can you quantify how hard or easy it is to throw a touchdown pass in every game?

“Obviously game circumstances and a lot of other factors, factor in. The one thing that holds is, it’s scoring seven points. It means you’ve scored a touchdown in how many straight games as well. It’s a heck of an accomplishment. To quantify how hard or not hard (it is), it’s obviously very hard, since it’s happened only a handful of times in this 50-year span. You look at how it hasn’t happened and look at all the quarterbacks that have played in those 50 years, that’s a heck of a deal.”

You talked about one of the potential reasons for this happening is his ability to stay level-headed. Is that one of the qualities that you think has helped Drew along this path and one of the things you may have learned from him?

“Yes, I was more commenting on the way he prepared, week to week, whether they won lost, whether he played good, bad, whatever happened he was going to have the same routine and go about his preparation (the same way). It’s different than in college, where if you lose a game or two, your hopes of winning a national championship or a conference championship a lot of times are shot at that very moment, but in this league, as we’ve seen in years past, there’s 9-7, 8-8, 10-6, teams that find a way to get in the playoffs and win a championship. I think that being said, Drew’s ability to maintain that level of preparation and even, steady keel win, lose, whatever, helps give his team the best chance to win. That’s something I took from him as a young player when he was here. The question I was asked was about the Saints being 0-4. Nobody here’s worried about what their record is. We know what we’re going to get. We know what type of team they are. We know how they prepare and Drew’s obviously the leader of that group. We know what we’re getting into this weekend down in New Orleans.”

Do you understand that there’s going to be a connection between the two of you as long as you are playing?

“Yes, it makes sense. We were on the same team there for the first couple years.”

Are you able to not worry about the fact that Drew won a Super Bowl already in the comparisons? Has it grown easier to do that since time has passed

“Yes, I never really found that part of it difficult. You know those things exist. You know they exist with players you were drafted with. Players you played with. That had never been a distraction or something that has bogged me down or anything like that. It’s something you’re aware of. I appreciate having played here with him those two years. Yes, we’re linked, but I don’t feel any sense of competition. It doesn’t give me any drive because of that link.”

What kind of teammate and competitor was Darren Sproles?

“First, as a teammate, top notch. (He was) one of the best, one of my favorites of all-time and as a player, he ranks right up there as well. He was great to have, the way he worked, practiced and how he worked in the offseason and just the type of guy he was in the locker room and off the field is awesome. Certainly, we’re excited about the backs we have here now, just thinking about what we had last week with Jackie Battle and Ryan (Mathews) complementing each other and sharing the load with the carries and Ronnie Brown having some big third down catches out of the backfield, it’s slighting the guys we have here, but certainly having Darren here all those years and the way he played for us was awesome. Certainly you miss a player like that, but it’s always fun to watch him. It’s tough to watch him sometimes seeing what he does in New Orleans and knowing he’s not here, but you’re always pulling for him.”

Drew Brees kind of recruited him away from the Chargers. Did you do anything to try to keep him in San Diego?

“I did all I could. I’m sure Drew recruited him. I don’t know if it was a straight-up recruitment down there. Obviously there are other things involved.”

Darren had a crucial drop and fumble Sunday. Having played with him, how do you think he would take something like that?

“He’s going to bounce back huge. He’s going to bounce back. One thing about Darren, is he cares as much or more than anybody in that locker room. He’s so dependable. Anytime he was to have a negative play when he was here, which is very rare and I’m sure it has been there, he’s the kind of guy that’s on to the next play. As strong as tough as he is physically, he is the same way mentally.”

How much has Robert Meachem grown in the Chargers offense and how has your on-field relationship with him grown?

“He’s been great. He’s been in that system in New Orleans for several years. There are some similarities, there are certainly some differences, both with the play-calling and scheme wise. He’s been great. We’re still growing, both him and I. I think our whole offensive unit is yet to find exactly not who we are, but to get all the way in synch. I think the good thing about that has been to be able to get to 3-1 without completely rolling offensively. But Robert’s been good. He hasn’t had a ton of ball. He didn’t have any this week. But that’s kind of the way it goes here. Even in years past, there’s game where a receiver doesn’t catch a ball or catches one ball, and the next week he catches six or seven and it kind of goes in cycles. One thing was pretty clear when he got here with Eddie Royal and the guys we’ve added is (that he’s) very unselfish. He’s a super team guy and he’s fit right in very well.”

Is it surprising at all that you have an offense like you do in San Diego and Drew Brees has one as potent in New Orleans, but that you go from one season of a lot of success to one just like Drew has said with a different identity? Is that a surprise, even when you have the same guys returning to the team?

“We’ve had quite a bit of new guys here, other than (Antonio) Gates and (Malcolm) Floyd and (Randy) McMichael, but you think about Royal and Meachem and Le’Ron McClain, Jackie Battle, Ronnie Brown, Dante Rosario. Those are all guys in their first year here. But, no, when you look at it as you did this morning, the Saints could be 4-0, there’s such a fine line between winning and losing in this league and it’s a week to week deal. No season’s ever the same and no game’s ever the same. We couldn’t score a touchown against Atlanta. We turned it over four times and we turn it over once (at Kansas City). Obvioulsy the defense got us a lot of turnovers, six turnovers we were able to get. Then we were able to score 37 points. We had defensive touchdonws. That’s the first question we got. How could you not score in Atlanta, but score in Kansas City and do all that. It’s week to week. It’s constantly trying to execute your formula on every play. It’s going to be a super challenge in that dome on Sunday night. We’re going to have to be at our best.”

We know Antonio Gates’ background. Jimmy Graham played basketball primarily and only a year of football. Is it neat to see how people have gone the Antonio Gates mold, grown and how that tight end position has become a major weapon in the NFL?

“Yes, it certainly changed. I think Gates is certainly one of the guys if not the guy who had a hand in that. You see different guys trying to take that path who were primarily basketball (players) and tried to make the move to football and I think probably since Gates, there have been a handful who have tried that route. Jimmy Graham is probably the one that’s really obviously done a heck of a job and become a big time player in this league. It’s amazing to see, but you really see how the basketball benefits them and benefited them in this game at that position from a route-running standpoint, body position and I know I’ve certainly thrown Gates a lot of high balls he’s gone up and gotten. I’ve seen Drew do the same to Graham. I’ve seen him go up and get a bunch of balls and obviously his body position and ability to go up and do that gives us confidence to throw those types of balls that otherwise you might now throw.”

Not all the time do we see guys have a fondness for each other when teammates split up that you and Drew have for each other. What is it about the working relationship that you guys had and what allowed you guys to have a good relationship despite the direct competition?

“I think first off, it was by neither of ours choice that we ended up right here at the points we did in our careers. We’re both competitive, but at the same time, very respectful of one another. There’s no doubt we were going to compete like crazy and that I wanted to be the starter my rookie year and there was no doubt in his mind where he said he wasn’t letting me have it. But at the same time, I was one of the first to high-five him after a touchdown pass those first two years. I pulled for him and I tried to help him as much as I could those first two years and I’d like to think I helped him in some ways, whether it was preparation or something on tape and certainly he was helpful to me those two years and then as we’ve gone our separate ways…We don’t talk a ton or keep up a whole lot. Obviously he has a young family. I have a young family of six little ones. He’s out here some in the offseason. It’s not that we hang out a bunch. But we certainly keep up. I always watch them when they’re playing when I get the chance. He seems to do the same. When you have a solid guy, a good guy and a true pro in the way he plays, it makes it easy to get along and pull for a guy.”

San Diego Chargers Head Coach Norv Turner

Conference Call With New Orleans Media

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

First off, you see the Saints on the schedule and probably figure they won’t be 0-4 going into this game. What are your thoughts on the game and are the Saints being 0-4 a surprise to yourself and a lot of people?

“Yes and I think that from the standpoint of what a record is affects people on the outside more than two teams getting ready to play, because we have a good group of veterans. We have a good veteran staff that’s outstanding. You know what this league’s about and every week, you have to get ready to play your best and go out and play your best and if you can go out and do those two things, it gives you a chance to win. It doesn’t guarantee you’re going to win. We’re familiar with New Orleans and their players. We know what they’ve accomplished over the last several years as an entire organization and football team. You put the tape on and you’re not watching the score. You’re watching the players and the plays and the things that you’re doing. It gets you ready and gets your attention real fast. The explosiveness on offense and the things they do, they’re extremely well-coached. The things Drew (Brees) can do (is impressive), the way he uses all the players. Defensively, they’re a very physical and fast football team. I think from a standpoint of that, our players understand that we’re going into a very difficult place to play against a team that’s highly motivated and is very talented.”

Talking about your offense, do you go into a season expecting it to take a few games to get their identity or do you never know if it’s going to snap in game one or game eight?

“I think this for us, we’ve had a lot of changes obviously with Robert Meachem. We’ve had five or six guys that are with us for the first or second year playing. You do go through a process of finding out what your guys do best, putting them into a position to do their best, eliminating things you’re not comfortable with, finding identity and personality, figuring out what works best and each week you have to find what matches up best with the team you’re playing in. We’ve been able to in each of our games, find a pretty good rhythm in different spots. But we haven’t been able to do that for an entire game. We’ve had two games where we’ve score over 30 points. I think time of possession in Oakland, we had it for over 40 minutes, but you want to be productive and want to eliminate the three and outs and be playing at a level that helps your entire football team win.”

You brought up Robert Meachem and we covered him here for five years. What does he need to go to get more involved in this offense? Philip Rivers said he’s trying to learn the ins and outs since it’s his first year there. What are your thoughts on Robert?

“He’s close. He was close on three or four big plays. We had one in Tennessee where he was running completely free. It was going to be a 40-yard touchdown and the protection broke down. We just couldn’t get him the ball. I see it everyday in practice. I see him getting better and better and Philip getting more and more comfortable with Robert (and) Robert getting more comfortable with us. He’s obviously been a very productive player, so he doesn’t lack confidence and that’s the number one thing you worry about when you’re not having the production you want to be having, that the guy might start to waver. That certainly hasn’t happened. He can fly. He’s running fast, as I said last week he had a very good week at practice. The way our game came up, our backs caught eight or nine balls and our tight end caught three or four, so we didn’t get the ball to him on the outside the whole lot, but that’s kind of the way the game was played.”

Have you seen where some guys who are free agents make big contributions immediately and some other guys need more time to find a rhythm with the quarterback? Is it case by case?

“There’s no question it’s case by case. It is game by game. (Antonio) Gates was out and we had Dante’ Rosario score three touchdowns on four passes in the first game. He’s caught one or two balls since. It is game to game how things come up. We don’t want to be in a position where we throw the ball 50 times. So, again, if you’re throwing it 30 times, those numbers change a little bit too.”

Antonio Gates was one of the first basketball players to become tight ends. There’s been a trend where some guys have done it and been very successful, maybe some other guys not. But Jimmy Graham has obviously done that here in New Orleans. What are your thoughts in Antonio Gates being the mold and Jimmy Graham being as productive as he has?

“It’s unbelievable what Jimmy Graham. He has such a big body and uses it so well. I think it’s similar. They’re different style players, but he’s similar to Antonio. Obviously Drew (Brees) was here at the beginning of Antonio's (tenure) when he got rolling and I see them using him in a similar way. Those guys with a basketball background know how to use their body and shield guys off their body to go up for balls and then as they continue to grow and grow as route runners it just becomes crazy. Obvioulsy we contributed to it when Darren Sproles joined New Orleans and you put Sproles behind Jimmy Graham, then you get a great situation for the quarterback and one of those two players, (because) it’s hard to double both those guys. When I was in Dallas a long time ago we had Jay Novacek and we put Emmitt Smith behind him and ran the combination route. Early in his career, Antonio Gates had LaDainian Tomlinson running those routes underneath. It’s just impossible to double both of them. You look at Graham and when he and Darren are teamed up, you stack them over there where they are side by side which they do sometimes, and it makes it very difficult on defenses.”

Are you still hoping to get more out of your running game and get a little more balance between running and passing?

“We’ve gotten better in the run and the thing I would like to do is to be able to be more consistent with the run throughout the game. The last two games we’ve won, we’ve finished them off with running the ball extremely well in the fourth quarter, which is the hardest time to run, when people know you’re going to run. But we’ve run it extremely well. We’ve been in games, where you want to make plays early in the passing game to give you a chance to get some points and get some chunks, but we need to be consistent with the run throughout the game and we’re going to be. We again, had our starting left tackle (Jared Gaither) out the first three games. Getting him back helped and Ryan (Mathews) missed the first two games and getting him back helped and we’re getting a feel for Jackie Battle. We do have a lot of moving parts, a few new guys and we’re trying to get everyone on the same page as quickly as we can.”

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