Time to unleash Jason Verrett coming soon

SAN DIEGO -- Jason Verrett had more of pep in his step during Monday's practice for the San Diego Chargers.

The rookie cornerback was no longer burdened with wearing a red jersey, a reminder to avoid contact on the field during team drills.

"It means everything," Verrett said. "I'm just trying to get back to where I was. And I'm just trying to get back up to pace."

San Diego's first-round selection in this year's draft, Verrett has not played in an exhibition game as he rehabs from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder March. Chargers head coach Mike McCoy has taken a cautious approach to Verrett's rehabilitation with an eye toward making sure the TCU product is healthy for the team's regular-season opener at Arizona on Sept. 8.

But at some point the Chargers need to let the tenacious Verrett loose and play full-speed in game conditions to see what they have. And Sunday on the road against the San Francisco 49ers seems like the right time.

"Yeah, that's my goal," Verrett said, when asked about the possibility of playing against San Francisco. "Just to treat every day like it's game day, go hard on the rehab and hopefully I'll be ready to play."

Verrett would provide a major boost for a secondary that finished in the bottom third of the league in pass defense last season. Free-agent addition Brandon Flowers played his first reps with his new team against Seattle, looking solid over the weekend.

Add Verrett on the field against the 49ers, and the Chargers will finally get to see the team's revamped secondary together for the first time.

Verrett understands that it's critical to get some reps against San Francisco and show McCoy that he will be ready to play once the regular season begins.

"They're very important," Verrett said. "It's a way for me to get a feel for the game, so that way when it comes to the season opener I'm going to be up to pace with the speed. And then being able to learn the signals out there with the crowd, and being able to deal with all of that."

McCoy says he's already been impressed with Verrett's effort during practice, calling his play "outstanding" so far during camp.

"There is a reason why we took him where we picked him, and you can see the talent that he has out here," McCoy said. "But now it's a matter of going into a game and playing full speed and making the checks and understanding what certain calls mean on the run.

"The next time he gets out there it's going to be full speed. You're playing the game for the first time, so it's a matter of executing the way you do on the practice field but where it counts for real."

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers also has noticed Verrett's energy on the field.

"He's always around the ball," Rivers said. "When you're throwing it he always seems to make it close. Nothing jumps out of me that he has given up that has been easy, and that's what you want in a defensive back."