New RB Ronnie Hillman ready to contribute for Chargers

SAN DIEGO -- He has only participated in two practices for the San Diego Chargers, but new running back Ronnie Hillman says he’s up to speed with the playbook enough to play Sunday against the Houston Texans if called upon.

“I feel like I could go out there and perform,” Hillman said. “Playing with Phil (Philip Rivers), he could change the play in a split second, so just coming in and figuring out how they play is probably the biggest challenge.”

A member of the Denver Broncos for the first four years of his NFL career, Hillman said he’s also adjusting to being a teammate of a former AFC West rival in Rivers.

“Just watching him and playing against him, he’s a great quarterback and a competitor,” Hillman said. “I hated him when I was in Denver, but we’re cooler now.

“Whenever you have a good quarterback on the opposite team, you really don’t like them, but I’m glad to be back in San Diego playing for the Chargers.”

The Chargers claimed Hillman off waivers when he was released by the Minnesota Vikings earlier this week. The 25-year-old San Diego State product has some familiarity with the Chargers’ offense from time spent with head coach Mike McCoy when McCoy served as offensive coordinator for the Broncos a few years ago.

Hillman also fills a need for a pass-catching running back for San Diego with Danny Woodhead, Branden Oliver and Dexter McCluster all out for the year due to injury.

The Chargers had been carrying Melvin Gordon and Kenneth Farrow as their only active running backs on game days.

Further, Hillman could be a matchup problem for the Texans, who allowed Oakland quarterback Derek Carr to throw for 199 yards and two touchdowns on targets directed at running backs in Houston’s loss to the Raiders on Monday Night Football.

Hillman had a workout with the Chargers earlier this year, but San Diego settled on McCluster instead, who had more of a comfort level with offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt’s scheme from his time with the Tennessee Titans.

The Aztecs’ No. 4 all-time rushing leader with 3,243 rushing yards, Hillman added that he’s proud to see San Diego State’s all-time rushing leader in Donnel Pumphrey (6,127) putting San Diego State in the college football conversation nationally with his play.

“He’s a good back,” Hillman said. “Just with his success, it’s cool for the city how you don’t have to wait 10 years for another back to come in and change the culture. So that’s good.”