clear
Saturday October 21st, 2017 1:35PM

Chargers say bittersweet farewells in last week in San Diego

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Antonio Gates first arrived at Chargers Park in 2003, and Philip Rivers joined him one year later on the peaceful practice fields and low-slung buildings tucked below a golden hillside on Murphy Canyon Road.

The tight end and his quarterback have spent their entire NFL lives inhabiting this training complex in northern San Diego. They've honed their skills with uncountable thousands of throws and catches on these fields, and they've built warm friendships with hundreds of their fellow Chargers in its locker room.

But Chargers Park and San Diego are down to their final week as this team's home. After a three-day mandatory minicamp concludes Thursday, the players will disperse for summer vacation before the moving vans portentously parked outside the complex are filled for the 85-mile drive north to Costa Mesa, the Orange County city where the Los Angeles Chargers will hold training camp in July.

"It's a bittersweet moment, because obviously the memories are still here," Gates said Tuesday. "They will forever be here for myself, for the guys that have been around."

Chargers Park will be empty this summer for the first time in two decades, and San Diego will spend its autumn Sundays without the team that arrived from Los Angeles in 1961. The move has loomed for five months, but its imminent finality has some veterans feeling nostalgia during their last few workouts in San Diego's postcard-perfect sunny weather.

"There's a lot of time spent out there, a lot of balls thrown," Rivers said while standing in the cool shade just off the practice fields. "A lot of time spent in this locker room, weight room, meeting room. Qualcomm (Stadium) and the memories there from game days are public memories that a lot of people shared in. But shoot, I don't know how many days — probably almost close to 300-plus a year — we've been coming in here in some capacity."

While coach Anthony Lynn and many current Chargers haven't been around long enough to truly feel their fans' pain, the senior players and team employees are still processing the end of this era.

"You've got to look at it as a positive, as we're going somewhere to a new beginning," said pass rusher Melvin Ingram, who has spent his entire five-year career with the Chargers. "But you've also got to have a bitter feeling, (because) this is where it all started, and you're leaving the place where it all started."

While the Rams packed up swiftly in St. Louis after securing relocation last year, the Chargers elected to make a slower transition north, holding their offseason workouts and running out their lease at the training complex still owned and maintained by the city of San Diego.

Rivers was grateful for the gradual breakup, which allowed him extra time to decide whether to commute to LA or to move his wife and eight children out of their longtime family home.

Rivers still hasn't decided, by the way.

"I will figure it out at some point," he said with a laugh.

The Alabama native had never been west of the Mississippi River when the Chargers acquired him in a draft trade. While Rivers still treasures his Southern roots, Southern California has grown on the 35-year-old quarterback and his wife.

"With time, you feel part of the community," Rivers said. "All but one of my children have been born out here. You begin over time to call it home. I'm very thankful, and always will be."

Gates has long spent parts of his offseason in Los Angeles, so he has given his teammates plenty of tips on the sprawling metropolis. He also needs just one touchdown catch to become the NFL's career leader in TDs by a tight end, and Gates is at peace with the fact that he'll set the record and finish his career away from San Diego.

He still plans to visit several restaurants and other businesses around town to say a personal goodbye to the city that embraced him after he arrived as an undrafted college basketball player looking for a new life on the West Coast.

"It's just one of those things where we want to take time out to say thank you to San Diego and to the fans that have supported us," Gates said. "But at the same time, I'm excited to move to LA. I'm excited about the new change, and hopefully they'll welcome us with open arms, embrace us, and we can win some games and win a championship."

___

For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Football, AP Sports - NFL
© Copyright 2017 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Chargers say bittersweet farewells in last week in San Diego
The Chargers are down to their final days in San Diego
8:00PM ( 17 minutes ago )
Congress passes long-sought VA accountability bill
Congress has approved long-sought legislation to make firing employees easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs
7:48PM ( 29 minutes ago )
Sessions heatedly denies improper Russia contacts
Attorney General Jeff Sessions denies 'false and scurrilous allegations' about his contacts with Russian official in a dramatic appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
7:39PM ( 39 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant look to build a Warriors dynasty
Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and their Warriors teammates are determined to build a dynasty together and they might just be on their way after Golden State won its second title in three years
6:27PM ( 1 hour ago )
McIlroy returning from another injury at Wisconsin major
The storms moved in overnight and kept pounding Erin Hills through the morning, closing the course for some three hours with just two practice days remaining before the U.S. Open
6:11PM ( 2 hours ago )
Spanish state prosecutor accuses Ronaldo of tax fraud
A Spanish state prosecutor accused Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo with defrauding Spain's tax office of 14.7 million euros ($16.5 million) in unpaid taxes on Tuesday
5:57PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Sports
Beckham says missing OTAs had nothing to do with contract
Beckham is back: Receiver says time away from Giants was not about contract but reflecting on life
4:40PM ( 3 hours ago )
Mike Gundy signs new, 5-year contract with Oklahoma State
Mike Gundy has signed a five-year contract extension with Oklahoma State that will pay him $4.2 million this year followed by a $125,000 raise each year afterward
2:55PM ( 5 hours ago )
Beckham at Giants minicamp after missing voluntary OTAs
Standout wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has joined the New York Giants for the team's mandatory three-day minicamp
12:51PM ( 7 hours ago )
AP Online Football
The Latest: Giants' Beckham tells Curry, you can lose 1
New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. had a message for Stephen Curry as he was walking through security before Game 4 of the NBA Finals
8:51PM ( 3 days ago )
Tebow says he's loving the minor league grind to get better
Tim Tebow believes he is improving each day in pursuit of big-time baseball success in spite of what his stats may say
6:54PM ( 4 days ago )
Saints coach: Physician advises Fairley to give up football
Saints coach Sean Payton says defensive tackle Nick Fairley is seeing multiple heart specialists after one physician advised Fairley to stop playing football
5:02PM ( 5 days ago )
AP Sports - NFL
Congress passes long-sought VA accountability bill
Congress has approved long-sought legislation to make firing employees easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs
7:48PM ( 29 minutes ago )
Sessions heatedly denies improper Russia contacts
Attorney General Jeff Sessions denies 'false and scurrilous allegations' about his contacts with Russian official in a dramatic appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
7:39PM ( 39 minutes ago )
Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell a no-show as team starts minicamp
Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell skipped the first day of the team's minicamp
7:25PM ( 52 minutes ago )
No longer out of bounds: Trump allies question Mueller probe
Criticism of special counsel Robert Mueller used to be off limits
7:16PM ( 1 hour ago )
Sheriff: Lawmen 'desperately' searching for killer inmates
A manhunt is underway in Georgia for two inmates, "dangerous beyond description," accused of killing two guards on a prison bus Tuesday morning
7:16PM ( 1 hour ago )