SAN DIEGO -- Go ahead, try to bait Philip Rivers. Tell him about no Vincent Jackson to catch his passes or, worst yet, no Marcus McNeill to protect his blind side. Mention Drew Brees winning a Super Bowl before him and, just for fun, tempt him again to say the San Diego Chargers are relieved LaDainian Tomlinson is gone.
The quarterback is so unflappable it's easy to see why the Chargers are, in fact, his team.
"I'm the ultimate optimist about everything," said Rivers with a genuine smile that seldom leaves his face.
Rivers said that he has not tried to intervene with feisty general manager A.J. Smith about the projected lengthy contract holdouts of McNeill, his Pro Bowl left tackle, and Jackson, who caught 68 catches for 1,167 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Smith has stated he believes those players will sit out the first 10 weeks.
"They're key guys, they're a big part of the offense and we certainly want them here, but we have to get the mentality to prepare and go win without them," Rivers said. "Certainly, I'm hopeful, but ultimately we have to treat it as if there's an unfortunate injury in Week 1 ... because if we consume ourselves with things we can't control, then distraction creeps in."
"That's one of those things that once you see it in print, it feels like it's taken out context a little bit," Rivers said. "And I think he even shared the same feelings that he sensed it was time [for a fresh start], and that's all I was expressing. I love LT. We've talked a handful of times and a lot of my great football memories are with him."
Nevertheless, there was good amount of information that Tomlinson was not pleased that Rivers had become the focal point of the offense.
"I think that was driven more from the outside -- it's always been our team, not my team, not his team," said the Pro Bowl quarterback. "We had a heck of a run, but I told LT how badly I felt that we couldn't win a championship when he was here."
Rivers also said he took delight that Brees, the former Chargers starting quarterback, won a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints.
"I was happy for Drew -- we developed a friendship when he was here and he certainly taught me how to be a pro," Rivers said. "To see that moment he was able to share with his son [Baylen], well, it doesn't get much better than that."
Rivers laughed when it was pointed out that if he ever wins a Super Bowl for the Chargers, he can't quite duplicate that father-and-son moment. Rivers has five children.
"I'd love to get that same opportunity, but it'll be a little different. I won't be able to hold 'em all, but I'd love for 'em to all be a part of it."
Other observations from Chargers camp:
Rookie top pick Ryan Mathews, a running back from Fresno State, has made an early strong impression on Rivers and the Chargers.
"I've seen him up close the past few days, and he's going to be special," Rivers said. "It's a very simple approach he has -- "I'm a running back, and I'm going to play the way I play." He's not coming in here to fill the expectations LT set around here."
Shawne Merriman still has not reported, and his position is pretty straightforward, according to several sources: The linebacker prefers to stay in San Diego and would sign his $3.2 million contract tender if he had a guarantee the team would not trade him or simply sign him to a new long-term deal.
Rivers on the latest rumors of Brett Favre's retirement: "Well, until it's concrete, don't know what to believe. I had a poster of Brett on my wall when I was a kid, so it's certainly been special for me to compete against Brett. It would be weird not to have Brett Favre playing football in this league."
ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen will file reports from all the training camps and send updates on the road via Twitter (@mortreport).