SAN DIEGO -- Whether you talked to a player or a coach this season, none have used the excuse of the team’s ongoing effort to find a new stadium as a distraction or reason for the San Diego Chargers’ struggles on the football field over the past two years.
However, Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, who spent four seasons with the Chargers as the team’s linebackers coach and defensive coordinator, said from his perspective that the uncertainty of where the team will play next season could be weighing on Chargers players and the coaching staff.
“I know Mr. [Dean] Spanos would love to be able to keep that team there,” Rivera said. “And again, that comes up every year and quite honestly it weighs a little bit on the players, at least in my opinion I believe it does. But at the end of the day, whatever happens is going to happen for the organization.”
However, Chargers head coach Mike McCoy and quarterback Philip Rivers reiterated that stadium issues have not affected San Diego’s play on the field or are a reason the team has 22 of its past 32 games.
“Our players have done an outstanding job on a weekly basis on being focused on the task at hand,” McCoy said. “This week it’s Carolina. We addressed the whole situation during the offseason on the first day of training camp.
“As players and coaches, we all understand we have a job to do week in and week out, and everything else will take care of itself. Our players have been very focused the entire year on what we need to do.”
Added Rivers: “I think we just haven’t made plays. I don’t think any outside distraction has had anything to do with it.”
Even though the Chargers still mathematically have a chance to make the playoffs, at 5-7 basically they are playing for draft position for a second consecutive season. But Rivers says his teammates are not mailing it in and will continue to put forth their best effort on game days.
“It’s a pride, respect factor and it’s also our job,” Rivers said. “We signed up for 16 games, not just if it was going to go good or if it was going to be tough.
“I know things don’t look great as far as you want to be playing deep into January, but it’s still not out of the woods. And of course, that’s not the only thing that should motivate us. But we’ve got four games left.
“Everything you do matters,” Rivers added. “It counts just amongst your peers, too -- seeing what this brings out in them. You find out about the character of guys in times like this.”
Rivers will take the field for the first time in the state of North Carolina since playing there in college for NC State.
Rivers was a rookie on the Chargers when they defeated Carolina 17-6 in Charlotte during the 2004 season but did not play in the game.
As with his teammates, Rivers expects the Chargers to get the best from the Panthers, even though the team is 4-8 after reaching the Super Bowl last season.
“I know this year for them hasn’t been what they probably anticipated,” Rivers said. “But you also know with him, shoot, and you look on the defensive side with [Luke] Kuechly and [Thomas] Davis, we’re going to get the 15-1 Panthers from an effort and a preparation standpoint.”