COSTA MESA, Calif. — The first workout in pads during training camp usually belongs to the defense, but Los Angeles Chargers center Mike Pouncey was ready to bring his own level of physicality.
Pouncey (University of Florida) traded blows with Chargers defensive linemen Brandon Mebane and Corey Liuget on Monday, showing a ferocity he rediscovered because of how his time in Miami ended after seven seasons.
“It just lit that fire again in me,” Pouncey said. “I never thought I would play with anybody but the Dolphins, but once they released me, it made me want to be an even better football player. It made me want to prove everybody wrong, and I’m excited to be here. I can’t wait to help this run game out, help this football team do something special.”
Pouncey signed a two-year contract with the Chargers in March, inspired by the chance to play with one of the game’s top quarterbacks in Philip Rivers.
His time in Miami saw Pouncey working with a host of journeymen before helping first-round draft pick Ryan Tannehill transition to the NFL. Rivers is at the other end of the spectrum in terms of talent, experience and understanding of the game. It didn’t take long for Pouncey to recognize Rivers’ comprehensive mastery of the position.
“I just like that he knows everything that is going on each and every play. When we go up, he’s the guy that points out the Mike (linebacker). He knows when blitzes are coming, so he puts us in the right protections and he gets us in and out of plays. When a bad look is there and we don’t want to run that play, he switches the play,” Pouncey said.
“To be able to play with him, I don’t take it for granted. I feel like it’s something that I lucked up into, and I’m going to take full advantage of it.”
The chance to play on a team with viable Super Bowl aspirations was just as important for Pouncey, who reached the playoffs once during his time with the Dolphins, as the Chargers are the only team in the AFC West that returns its head coach, both coordinators and starting quarterback. The professionalism displayed by his new teammates during their brief time together has convinced Pouncey the Chargers can deliver on their growing expectations.
“Every year in the league I’ve always wanted to win,” Pouncey said. “That’s the goal every year you go into training camp is to try and win something, win the Super Bowl. For me right now, at the point in my career, I’m excited to be on a football team that has a chance. They finished top of the league in offense last year, and our defense is unbelievable, so I feel with me coming here it can only help.”
Pouncey wants to make his presence felt in the run game, where the Chargers tied for 25th after averaging 3.8 yards per carry last season. He looked up to the part in practice, creating holes for Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler. But Pouncey also felt the familiar push back from the likes of Mebane and Liuget on the interior.
Chargers defenders had been looking forward to the chance to hit again, and coach Anthony Lynn said their energy was evident.
“That’s kind of why you had to hold them back a little bit. You don’t want the excitement to go too far,” Lynn said.
The back and forth during the morning session was fine by Pouncey.
“First days of pads is always the funnest day,” Pouncey said. “I feel we had a really good day as a football team on both sides of the football, and we can only get better from here.”