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Why Spencer Pulley (not Max Tuerk) is Chargers' starting center -- for now

SAN DIEGO -- The Los Angeles Chargers are heading down the backstretch of the team's offseason program.

They have two more weeks of scheduled organized team activities and finish with a mandatory minicamp June 13-15 before transitioning to Los Angeles.

Head coach Anthony Lynn was recently asked for his reaction to the team's slogan, "Fight for L.A."

"My job is to get my team to fight, and that's what we're trying to do here in OTAs is put a team on the field that L.A. can be proud of," Lynn said.

I talked with Arthur Arkush about the Chargers transitioning to Los Angeles and other storylines in this podcast.

That said, let's get to this week's mailbag:

@eric_d_williams: I've gotten a handful of tweets over the last few months asking this question in some form or fashion: Why isn't Max Tuerk being given the opportunity to work with the starters at center?

Yes, when the Chargers selected Tuerk in the third round last year, general manager Tom Telesco indicated that he could be the team's center of the future.

But Tuerk was coming off ACL knee surgery his final season at USC and still had to transition to the NFL game. The Chargers rolled the dice and signed veteran Matt Slauson to play center full-time, and he turned out to be the team's best offensive lineman last year.

They also brought in an undrafted rookie out of Vanderbilt named Spencer Pulley last year, and he proved better than expected. So the answer to the question is what Pulley has done over the last 12 months is the reason he remains the center running with the first unit for now over Tuerk.

When I asked Slauson about Pulley a few weeks ago, he gushed about the second-year pro's skill set.

Pulley was active for all 16 games as a rookie, playing 115 snaps at right guard sharing time with D.J. Fluker, 48 snaps at left guard and 44 at center.

"He's a really smart kid, wise beyond his years," Slauson said. "I thought last year the way he approached his job was way beyond what a rookie does. He's just committed to it.

"The reality is he's a pro. And the way he attacks the day is like that of a fourth- or fifth-year guy. And his tools -- he's extremely quick and extremely strong -- he's one of the stronger guys in our room. So I have a lot of confidence in him."

Like Slauson, quarterback Philip Rivers offered similar praise about Pulley. Rivers also knew Pulley before he arrived at Chargers Park because his younger brother Stephen Rivers played with Pulley at Vanderbilt.

"I have a great comfort level with Spencer," Rivers said. "That's what he played in college his whole time there at Vandy. Slauson was great there last year, and Spencer played some there in that Cleveland game and a few other times, so I have a good feel with him.

"So from a communication and snap standpoint, he played a lot last year at guard, so he's used to being in there with us. He was a guy we found out about early on at this point last year, we were like, 'Who is this Pulley guy?' I knew about him because my brother was with him at Vandy for a year. But it just wasn't too big for him right off the bat. He's had a heck of an offseason, so he's in there right now with the first group and we'll see how it goes."

While Pulley appears ahead, Tuerk should still get an opportunity to compete. As detailed in this story, Tuerk's weight is not an issue. He's in the mid-290s and hopes to be around 300 pounds when training camp starts.

As a third-round pick, Tuerk's scheduled to make about $670,000 this year -- none of which is guaranteed -- so compensation will not be part of Telesco's decision on whether he makes the roster.

The key for Tuerk will be to perform at a high level when the pads come on during preseason games and in scrimmages.

@eric_d_williams: Right now I believe the clearest path to playing time for any undrafted rookie is at kicker and punter.

Kicker Josh Lambo and punter Drew Kaser have the talent to be productive players in the NFL. But both were also inconsistent last year, which is why the two have competition during the offseason.

Undrafted rookie kicker Younghoe Koo is competing with Lambo at kicker, and recent addition and undrafted rookie Toby Baker out of Arkansas is battling it out with Kaser at punter.

Lynn was asked if the two were just camp legs to help rest the young kickers, or if there was an actual competition at both positions this offseason.

As usual, Lynn did not leave any doubt.

"We were 32nd in the league last year in special teams, so I would say it's very open," Lynn said. "We're competing. We're evaluating."