I suppose this deserve a disclaimer. Since I don't have to worry about looking like a professional journalist for another few months, let me tell you just how unprofessional I am.
I had a digital voice recorder. I have one, I should say. It's awesome. You can set the mic sensitivity, break up interviews into chunks while you're doing them and at the end of the day you can plug it into your computer and all the audio turns into mp3 files. Voila. Before I left for San Diego, I had the voice recorder sitting on my living room coffee table. It was supposed to be there so I wouldn't forget to pack it. Guess what happened.
I landed at 11pm on Thursday night and had to get to Chargers Park (which I had an idea of where it was, but had never been to) by 9am on Friday morning. It was the first time in my life that I remember saying "Thank God for Walmart", the only store in the world that sells everything and opens at 7am. So I went to Walmart and, after running around their electronics section like a madman for ten minutes, found the digital voice recorders.
Since I already had my sweet recorder at home, I just needed something to tide me over. The cheapest one will do just fine, thank you. It wasn't until I was ripping open the packaging in the parking lot that I realized what a step down I had taken. No separation of audio, no way to export (you can listen you your headphones only) and no mic sensitivity settings. I'm surprised the thing didn't have a tape in it.
Find out if the voice recorder worked and what happened with my camera after the jump.
So, did the voice recorder work? It seems as though it did. I've only made it through about half of what I recorded so far, but I think it did the job. Unfortunately, I have no way of exporting the audio and posting it here.
The camera was another issue all together. Again, it shows my lack of professionalism.
I'm not big on pictures. I like looking at them, but never remember to take them and therefore I don't have a huge collections of pictures. I was a late-comer to the digital camera revolution for this reason. Right now, my wife and I have a very nice digital camera, but it's a personal camera. The type of camera you'd see a group of 18 year old girls taking pictures of themselves with while laughing up a storm, that's the camera I have. At least mine is black.
My plan was to bring this camera and snap photos all day Friday and Saturday. Not surprisingly, at this point anyways, I forgot the camera also. Just another thing I was panicked about on Friday morning. I may have looked at disposable cameras at Walmart, if not for my parents lending me their camera right before I left. I was in such a rush I just grabbed the case the camera was in. Sitting in the Walmart parking lot, I opened the camera case. It was the exact same camera I had intended to bring.....but it was purple. Oh boy.
I got to practice on Friday and I'm standing behind about 7 professional photographers. Big lenses for extreme close-ups, tri-pods for steady shots, etc. All of the journalists are walking around with either pen and paper (which I didn't care to bring) or with their phones out (I'm in that group). None of them had cameras, they had camera people there for them. I overheard Acee telling his cameraman whom to take pictures of. After one big play by the defense, Casey Pearce turned around and said "Did you get that?!?" to his camera guy.
While this is going on, I met Bill Johnston. I told him that I had a camera in my pocket, but was a little embarrassed to take it out. Along with the media, there were select season ticket holders at the practices and even their cameras looked more professional than mine. The last thing I wanted to look like was a fan. Bill didn't say anything, but the look he gave me said "This is your one chance and you're going to hold back because you're ashamed of your camera?" The look was right.
When I came back for the afternoon practice, with renewed vigor, I threw my pride to the wind. I pulled out my little purple camera and snapped away. Hilarity ensued when I started talking to Curtis Egan, a writer from BoltTalk.com, and realized he was a blogger. Not only did he have a long lens and a professional camera, he had the neck-strap to make sure his expensive piece of equipment wouldn't drop and break. Even amongst the bloggers I looked under-prepared. I wasn't going to let that stop me, and here are the pictures I collected.
Clinton Hart was one of the first guys out of the locker room and onto the field. Although he wasn't overly impressive in practice, like Steve Gregory was, that could've been because he wasn't allowed to hit anybody. He was certainly working as hard as anybody on the team.
I really feel for Jeromey Clary. Fans seem really down on him. Lucky for him, the team loves him. Every person I talked to about him couldn't say enough about his potential and his work ethic. Norv even said "I don't know why everybody's so down on the kid, I thought he had a great year last year."
There were three offensive linemen that were really impressive as they stood around or walked past. Kris Dielman, who couldn't possibly have thicker arms, legs or a thicker body than the one he had (he's the mean-looking bald guy walking towards Clary). Just by looking at him you can tell that it'd be damn near impossible to move him backwards. Marcus McNeill, who was the tallest offensive lineman by a bit and had a tremendous wingspan. Just watching him walk past me, walking on asphalt with spikes, it was obvious that the man has been gifted with such great balance that he's able to use all of his strength when he blocks. Jeromey Clary, who seemed to be a mixture of the two. He wasn't quite as thick or as intimidating as Dielman, but he was close. He also wasn't as tall and didn't have that gracefulness that McNeill has, but he has better-than-average balance for a guy with his height. That whole package made him a fun player to watch in practice.
The one and only, Mr. Charlie Whitehurst. Apart of my admiration for his beard, long hair and clipboard-handling prowess, I admire Chuck as a legitimate NFL quarterback. I think he's a little bit better than Billy Volek in practices, but he's never had a shot at doing anything outside of the preseason. At the end of this season, Charlie becomes a free agent. I'd love it if Volek's contract was up and Charlie could sign back as the Chargers backup, but Billy V has another year on his contract after this season. I fully expect Whitehurst to catch on somewhere as a backup and eventually crack a starting lineup.
I love this picture. I wanted to get one of LT, Sproles and Gartrell together, but wound up getting one with Bennett in there as well. Does Gartrell look like he's about to run throw a brick wall to anybody else? Did you know that in his last college football game he ran for 285 yards on 27 carries and scored 2 TDs? He also caught the ball 5 times for 90 more yards in that game.
I took this to show how close I was to the players. About 5 minutes later, McNeill put his hand on my shoulder so that he wouldn't walk into me as the tackles crossed to the side field. Also, this picture does a good job of showing Dielman's thick legs as well as McNeill's height and wingspan.
It's funny how the 2 hour practice builds tension. It starts with the team separating by position group. Then the offense will get together on one field, running plays against nobody, and the defense will do the same thing on the other field. When the offense and defense finally start playing each other, it's the number 1 offense against the number 2 defense and visa versa. A few big plays come here and there, but for the most part the number 1s dominate this part of practice. Only the last 20 minutes or so of practice is the number 1 offense against the number 1 defense, but those 20 minutes are intensely watched by media and coaches alike.
Larry English spent the first half of the afternoon practice throwing a medicine ball around with Jacques Cesaire. Then, him and another linebacker went over to the side field with a coach and did running drills down the field. Maybe I read him wrong, but he did not seem happy with me wanting to get his picture on the side field. Every time I turned around he seemed to be staring a hole right through me. Later on a I met him for a minute and he was very nice, but I don't think he's real happy with the way his Chargers career has started.
As usual, I came away both impressive and disappointed by Cletis Gordon. He made some absolutely spectacular plays, especially on Saturday during FanFest, but was burned several times as well. Consistency is the name of the game for a cornerback, and right now he has none. Also, Malcom Floyd catches absolutely everything. Whether it's on the sideline and he has to keep his toes in, or he has to dive for it, or out-jump the defender, Floyd always seems to end up with the ball. About 30 seconds before this picture was taken, Floyd made a catch similar to this one on Gordon.
The lines create chaos. There's lots of smashing and bodies flying all over. I always wondered how football would be different if there were no offensive or defensive lines, and the Chargers actually run parts of practice in just that way. This is to make sure that even without a pass-rush, the defense can still be effective. As far as reviews of the players in the picture, here they are really quick. Kevin Ellsion - Unimpressive. Antwan Applewhite - Not good enough to start, but a solid backup. Just as good as Jyles Tucker. Brandon Siler - A little slow, but very powerful. If the play comes to him, he can make something happen.
I don't know if it's just because he's the third string Tight End or not, but Kris Wilson seemed to catch 2-3 touchdowns each day. He's a good enough blocker, has soft hands and is apparently good at sneaking behind the defense when our offense is inside the 10 yard line. He made a couple of good catches in the flat as well. I was very impressed with what I saw from him. (Local celebrity Jenny Cavnar is in the background of this picture)
And that's all I have. I would've had more if I hadn't gotten lost in a discussion with the cameraman from Ch 4, but I think the ones I took did a good job of showing what the day was like. I'll try to get one or two of the interviews up today, but there may be a couple of days before I get all of them up because of a death in my family. I'm sure you guys understand.
If anyone took pictures from FanFest, feel free to post them in a FanPost (and I'll put it on the front page) or you can e-mail them to me and I'll do it for you.
Do you have any thoughts about Bolts From The Blue? Any tips you want to send our way? Whenever you have something to say, don't hesitate to e-mail me directly.