Chargers CB Bryce Callahan wants to prove Brandon Staley right

View Original Notice ? Chargers CB Bryce Callahan wants to prove Brandon Staley right

COSTA MESA — Cornerback Bryce Callahan had to wait longer after Chargers coach Brandon Staley called him to express interest two weeks after free agency opened.

“We’re going to try to work something out,” Callahan recalled Monday about his conversation with Staley. “I was excited. Familiar face, same kind of defense I’ve been in my whole career, so I knew if I came here, I would be comfortable getting in (and) hitting the ground rolling.”

Once the Chargers passed on taking a cornerback early in the 2022 draft, Callahan’s reunion with Staley came to fruition, as the two sides agreed to a one-year, $1.27 million contract a week after the draft.

“It’s rough,” Callahan said about the wait. “You see your friends get signed and all that, but my agent, everybody close to me said, ‘Be patient. It’ll happen.’”

With the Chargers having the option of signing Callahan, that allowed the team to focus on other positional needs in the draft. Callahan, 30, also wants to give the Chargers flexibility on the field as a versatile cornerback who can play inside and outside.

Staley is familiar with Callahan because he was a position coach when Callahan played for the Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos. Staley and Callahan followed Vic Fangio to Denver in 2019 when Fangio left his job as the Bears’ defensive coordinator to become the head coach of the Broncos.

Many of the Chargers’ defensive players struggled to learn Staley’s two-high safety scheme last season in his first year as head coach. The Chargers added a handful of players who are familiar with Staley’s scheme, and probably no one knows it better than Callahan, who spent his first seven seasons in the NFL with Fangio.

“I feel comfortable playing either inside or outside,” said Callahan, who joined the Bears as an undrafted free agent in 2015. “I’ve played in this scheme. It’s going to be my eighth year, I know it pretty well. … I’d say (the scheme is) about 90 percent similar, just different terminology that I need to learn. … Overall, it’s pretty much the same.”

Callahan will likely be a part of the Chargers’ cornerback rotation with Asante Samuel Jr., Michael Davis and J.C. Jackson, the team’s prize of free agency. Callahan didn’t draw a lot of interest in free agency because injuries forced him to miss a combined 28 games the past three seasons, including the entire 2019 season.

Callahan wants to prove that he’s still the same playmaker he was for Fangio and he wants to prove Staley right for taking a chance on him.

“I definitely want to prove, just even for my guy Staley,” Callahan said. “Just giving me the opportunity to get back out there. Injuries suck. I wish there was a special way just to stay away from them. No one wants to be hurt. No one wants to be on the sideline watching.

“I’m viewing this as a new chapter. My body is 100 percent. I feel great mentality. Hopefully push those injuries behind me and move forward.”

SLATER SETTING THE BAR HIGH

Chargers left tackle Rashawn Slater enjoyed his first Pro Bowl experience, but he said it would have been better if he didn’t spend a portion of it locked in his Las Vegas hotel room dealing with food poisoning.

Slater kept that information to himself because he didn’t want anyone thinking he had too much fun in Sin City.

“We’re in Vegas, so no one would believe me,” Slater jokingly revealed Monday. “But I was kind of just staying in my room for a little bit of it. But it was a lot of fun, still.”

Slater likely would have received the benefit of the doubt because his strong work ethic played a role in why he was the starting left tackle for the AFC Pro Bowl team as a rookie. But it’s hard to believe Slater when he said his rookie film made him cringle while reviewing it this offseason.

“I watched the tape,” said Slater, a second-team All-Pro last season. “There were all sorts of things. I look at the tape and a lot of it kind of makes me cringe. There’s detail and technique, and sometimes I’ll be this close, but there’s always that little room for improvement that can make a big difference. For me, I just try to focus on what I can do to get better; a little thing every single play.”

Slater, the 13th overall pick in last year’s draft, is setting the bar high for his second season and he’ll have a pair of star edge rushers in Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack to push him during practices. Slater learned about the Chargers’ trade for Mack after Staley texted him while on his honeymoon.

“I think it was the day after that trade happened, I was on my honeymoon and Coach Staley had texted me, ‘Get your mind right,’ or something like that,” Slater said. “I’m trying to enjoy this right now, but I’ll be ready.”

COVINGTON EXCITED ABOUT NEW TEAMMATES

Defensive tackle Christian Covington said he was excited to re-sign with the Chargers because he views them as a “championship-caliber team.”

“They’ve put the pieces together to prepare us to be that way,” Covington said. “The amount of guys they’ve brought in on defense is one thing, but then you look at the offensive side of the ball, it’s a special group as well.”

Covington is expected to see his share of snaps in the Chargers’ revamped interior defensive line with the free-agent signings of Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson. He expects the Chargers’ poor run defense from last season to improve with the new veterans.

“What a tremendous guy he is,” Covington said of Joseph-Day. “With the presence and vocal leadership that he brings and Austin Johnson, it’s been really fun getting to know these veterans. They’re these guys that have been in this game. They’ve had success in this league.”

Covington, a backup in 2021, is pushing to be one of the three starters on the interior of the defensive line. He’ll have competition with Jerry Tillery and UCLA product Otito Ogbonnia, who was drafted in the fifth round last month.

“Obviously, I want to start,” Covington said. “I’m going to do whatever it takes to put myself in the best position to be successful and let the chips fall where they lie at the end of the day. … Competition is competition at the end of the day. I’m happy to be here. I’m ready to fight. I’m ready to work. I know no matter what, this team is going to be successful, so I’m ready to contribute in any way I can.”

NOTES AND BOLTS

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