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Rivers sits out practice to rest knee, defends talk on field

SAN DIEGO -- Philip Rivers' mouth seems to be making as much
news as his injured right knee.

San Diego's quarterback, caught on camera this year yapping at
fans and opposing players, sat out practice Wednesday to rest his
sprained right knee as the Chargers began preparing for the AFC
Championship Game Sunday against undefeated New England.

"It's feeling pretty good. It's feeling better," Rivers said.
"I'm treating it like crazy. Obviously the goal is to be ready to
play on Sunday, and I'm optimistic I'll be able to do that."

Rivers sprained his medial collateral ligament when he landed
awkwardly after throwing a 56-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles
on the last play of the third quarter Sunday in a 28-24 victory
over Indianapolis. He didn't return.

Questions at Rivers' post-practice news conference quickly
shifted to the QB's jawing.

On Sunday, Rivers had two exchanges with fans. When he was
walking to the locker room for treatment, he could be seen telling
someone, "I'll be back." Then, when Peyton Manning's final pass
of the game fell incomplete, Rivers turned and was talking to fans
behind the bench.

During a Christmas Eve win over division rival Denver, cameras
caught the QB and teammates Shaun Phillips and Matt Wilhelm having
an animated conversation with Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler.

Rivers tried to downplay that exchange, but some Broncos were
infuriated.

During a home victory over Baltimore on Nov. 25 -- which started
the Chargers' current eight-game winning streak -- Rivers yelled
"shut up" at fans who booed on two straight plays.

Rivers has become a flashpoint, particularly on talk radio.

"I'm aware of it," Rivers said. "I really don't get too
caught up in it. It's kind of surprising, really, to be honest with
you. But, again, I'm out there having a good time as I did in the
backyard since I was 5 years old. I'm not saying anything out of
line. There's no profanity being used. I know what I'm about. My
teammates know, my family knows, everything else, I can't worry
about.

"When it stops being fun, that's when I'll stop playing," said
Rivers, who compared his talking to ribbing a buddy while playing
in the backyard.

"That's all it is. If we can't do that, I don't know. I really
don't. Anybody can be critical and criticize, but nobody knows
what's being said. Other than what's caught on camera, and as far
as I know, everything that's been caught on camera is clean, and
that's all that it'll ever be."

Some callers have even compared Rivers to Ryan Leaf, the bad-boy
quarterback who had a turbulent run with the Chargers from
1998-2000.

"Again, it's kind of unbelievable, to be honest with you,"
Rivers said. "I'm not going to sit here and turn and put down Ryan
Leaf. But sometimes you wonder what gives people the authority to
make some comparisons. Obviously I have an opinion about it.

"Since the Denver week, when things, to me, got blown out of
proportion, I haven't changed since then. If you followed me around
since I was 5 years old, you'd see the same thing every Saturday
afternoon in the backyard, you saw it for 51 games at NC State and
you'll probably catch something this weekend. Do I mean any harm
about it? No. Again, I'm just going to have fun."

Rivers expressed surprise that questions were about him, not the
team.

Later, though, he had some fun when he was asked the differences
between his personality and that of backup Billy Volek, who capped
the game-winning drive Sunday with a 1-yard sneak.

"Since we've been on the subject, I'm probably a little more
vocal. I talk a little more than he does," Rivers said, noting
that Volek is more even-keeled "and doesn't get as animated and
fired up."

Rivers sprained his left knee on Dec. 9 at Tennessee. He said
this injury might be easier to deal with.

"Anytime that lead leg is banged up, that can affect you
mentally," he said. "So I'm really, really optimistic I'm going
to be good to go. It's just a matter of working through some of the
pain and the issues now to be ready."

Rivers said he hopes to return to practice by Friday.

Also sitting out Wednesday were LaDainian Tomlinson (left knee),
tight end Antonio Gates (left toe) and nose tackle Jamal Williams
(ankle). Outside linebacker Shawne Merriman was limited due to an
illness.

"They've spent a lot of hours in the training room," coach
Norv Turner said. "They're all working on getting healthy. I think
we're making progress. I think in most cases they'll be Sunday
decisions."

Turner said Volek had a good practice.

"We've been in this situation a couple of times this year
already," Turner said. "There's things he does different, there's
things that he does the same. We've just got to get everyone else
ready to play so if Philip's playing, they're playing at a high
level. If he isn't, I think Billy's ready to step in and play
well."

Tomlinson, the two-time NFL rushing champion, said he's
"feeling better, especially after a few days and taking a day off
today. I feel a lot better. I have no concerns at all."

Tomlinson said he expects to practice Thursday.