Ladarius Green spreads his wings, prepares for expanded role in Chargers' offense

Ladarius Green will see a lot of action in the first four games with Antonio Gates out due to a suspension. Tom Uhlman/AP Images

SAN DIEGO -- The routine at Chargers Park remains the same for Ladarius Green.

He still looks on in admiration at the precision Antonio Gates operates in the San Diego Chargers’ offense with Philip Rivers at the controls in individual and team drills. And the 25-year-old remains intently focused on improving his craft.

“My approach is the same,” Green said. “I try and work hard every offseason and every training camp. So I come into it with the same mindset, trying to get better. I started off slow, messed up a couple times yesterday, but it’s getting better.”

While Green’s approach may be the same, this year there is a heightened sense of urgency.

He’s headed into the final year of his rookie contract that will pay him $660,000 in base salary in 2015. And with his mentor Gates earning a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, the Louisiana-Lafayette product will have an expanded role in San Diego’s offense once the regular season begins.

“He’s going to have an opportunity early on to do a few more things,” Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said. “We think very highly of him. We thought that the first year we got here, not just last year or the year before. Without Antonio for a couple weeks, he’s going to have an opportunity to get more playing time. … The system is staying the same, and we’re looking forward to seeing him play more.”

The athletic Green has potential. Even before Gates’ suspension, Chargers general manager Tom Telesco talked about wanting to get Green more involved this offseason. Like Telesco, San Diego’s star tight end believes that his understudy will rise to the task.

“He’s already a phenomenal athlete,” Gates said. “He’s already an emerging star in this league. And I just try and support him, like he’s been doing with me during the duration of his time here.”

Added Green: “He’s always been a teacher, even before this situation came up. He’s always been coaching me up, telling me what I can do better and telling me what I’m doing wrong. So it’s the same thing.”

Green said he’s comfortable with the playbook and his role in San Diego’s offense. His focus this offseason was on improving his blocking technique and route running. The Chargers have eight tight ends in camp, and Gates is practicing with the rest of the group.

Green said he’s getting about the same amount of reps as he usually does during camp. But this year, he’s getting more reps with the starters in preparation for more of role in the offense.

“He seems faster than he’s ever been,” Rivers said. “And maybe that’s not true, but he seems that way just with the way he’s moving. And some of that comes with more confidence. Naturally you gain that with the more you play, and the more comfortable you are in the offense.

“When you’re not having to think as much, you do play faster. He’s always had a good grip of the offense. ... He’s looked really good. We intended to last year, and we all agree he needs to be a bigger part of it as we move forward this year, and have him really be a weapon for us.”

Gates led the Chargers last season with 12 touchdowns, and was second on the team in receptions, finishing with 69 catches for 821 yards. But Green’s not concerned with replacing that production or what the future holds for him beyond the upcoming season.

His focus remains on seizing the moment and performing up to his potential.

“I don’t really think about it too much,” Green said. “There’s nothing else on my mind except for football.”