WR Isaiah Burse fighting for kick return job with Chargers

SAN DIEGO – With Branden Oliver lost for the season after suffering an Achilles injury against the Minnesota Vikings last week, the starting kick-return job is up for grabs for the San Diego Chargers.

As San Diego prepares for the team’s final preseason game on Thursday against the San Francisco 49ers, second-year pro Isaiah Burse is battling for that spot on the 53-man roster.

“It’s real big,” the Fresno State product said. “Obviously, I’ve been fighting for that job all training camp, and I’m still fighting for it. If I get the job, great, but if not, I’m still going to be working for it, because you just never know what’s going to happen. I’m always going to be ready.”

Burse has experience as a returner from his college days. At Fresno State, Burse finished with a school-record 5,873 career all-purpose yards, including 126 kick returns for 2,835 yards.

Burse signed with the Denver Broncos as an undrafted rookie in 2014. After spending time on the practice squads of the Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers, Burse joined San Diego’s practice squad in November. So he’s had a chance since then to acclimate to the culture at Chargers Park and what the coaching staff expects from him on the field.

“Training camp for me had its ups and downs, but overall I feel that I made some plays,” Burse said. “And during the camp I feel like I got better and better, and more comfortable.

“I guess I would give myself a ‘B.’ I still got a lot of work to do, but being here last year definitely helped, as far as knowing the coaches, knowing the players and knowing how they want you work.”

At 5-foot-10 and 187 pounds, Burse has the ability to work inside as a slot receiver, but is learning all three receiver positions. The 24-year-old native of Modesto, California, has some short-area quickness and explosive burst after the catch, but needs to be more consistent catching the football.

With the starters resting against the 49ers, Burse should get plenty of opportunities to show what he can do. The Chargers released veteran receiver James Jones this week. Keenan Allen, Travis Benjamin, Tyrell Williams and Dontrelle Inman are likely locked in as the top four receivers for San Diego, so Burse is competing for a back-end roster job as a receiver or a returner.

“I’m not going to put any pressure on myself,” Burse said. “I’m just going to play ball. I don’t care if it’s a Super Bowl or a scrimmage; I’m still going to treat it the same way.

“I’m going to play hard, and when the ball comes my way, I’m going to try and make plays. That’s how I play. I play hard, and nothing is going to change on Thursday.”

Burse also will get a chance to prove he can make a tackle on kickoff or punt coverage, something Burse has not done consistently since his high school days at Modesto Christian.

“I’m excited,” Burse said. “I want to get a tackle. I feel like I’m a hitter. When you come into the league and you’re a wide receiver, coaches think, ‘Well, he’s a wideout and pretty, so you don’t like to hit nobody.’ But I like hitting people.

“Hopefully, I can get a tackle or two this coming Thursday and show I can do that as well. I just don’t want to be one-dimensional. I want to be able to help the team wherever is needed.”