San Diego minicamp news and notes

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

SAN DIEGO -- Jacob Hester reached out to former college teammate Demetrius Byrd after he suffered injuries in an auto accident a week prior to the draft. Hester didn't expect he'd be reaching out to Byrd again during the draft.

But Hester felt the urge to give Byrd his best wishes again when the San Diego Chargers, who drafted Hester out of LSU last year, shook up the seventh round by taking Byrd. The field-stretching Byrd was considered a third-round talent prior to the accident.

"Drafting him was great for us," Hester said during the Chargers' minicamp this weekend. "He is a great talent. He helped us win our national championship."

San Diego star tight end Antonio Gates wasn't practicing as a precaution due to a high ankle sprain he suffered late last season. Gates played, and played well, in the postseason despite the injury.

Gates said he expects to be fine by training camp. He said his big toe that bothered him for nearly a year is "structurally" fine. Gates is looking forward to better health in 2009.

"I don't know how I got through last season," Gates said. "The toe bothered me for months and then I hurt the ankle. But, somehow, I made it through."

The Chargers were pleased with the play of first-round pick Larry English during the minicamp. English, a pass-rushing linebacker from Northern Illinois who was the No. 16 pick, should make an immediate impact if he continues to progress.

The team was also pleased with the ability of fourth-round pick Vaughn Martin. The defensive end Western Ontario product will be brought along slowly, but the Chargers weren't disappointed in their first impression of him.