COSTA MESA, Calif. -- You can only do so much to get better watching practice from the sideline and working with strength coach John Lott on the back field, where injured Los Angeles Chargers try to get healthy.
After missing the first two preseason games with a hamstring injury, Chargers cornerback Craig Mager finally was healthy enough to practice with his teammates on Tuesday.
“I got some great mental reps,” Mager said. “I feel a lot more comfortable with how they want us to play things. So it’s tough, but at the same time, I continue to find ways to get better and I’m excited about playing in my first preseason game.”
It's good timing for Mager’s return as he gets an opportunity to compete for a roster spot among a stacked group of cornerbacks.
Before Mager suffered the injury -- to the same hamstring that he tore as a rookie in 2015, forcing him to miss six games -- he was struggling to keep the Chargers’ speedy receivers from getting behind him early in training camp.
However, a plus for Mager has always been his versatility, as he has an ability to contribute on the perimeter or in the slot as a corner, and also as an impact player on special teams. With cornerback Jason Verrett and Brandon Flowers injured last season, Mager started eight games, finishing with 31 tackles and an interception.
Selected in the third round by the Chargers in the 2015 draft out of Texas State, Mager has started 10 games in two seasons and played 389 snaps in 2016.
“No matter where they put me at, I’m always going to try my best to help the team win,” Mager said. “But I just want to be any guy they want me to be. They know what I can bring to the table. They know that I’m a decent corner and I’ve actually played a lot of downs.
“So whether it’s special teams, kicker or holder, I’m going to do whatever they want me to do to help the team win.”
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said he’s interested in seeing on Mager out on the field competing this week so he can be evaluated with the rest of the cornerback group.
“It will be real important for him to get on the field because he missed some time and he’s definitely in the hunt,” Lynn said.