Chargers center Pouncey cleared to play whenever NFL returns
COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Mike Pouncey says he is ready to go whenever NFL teams are allowed to return to their facilities to hold workouts or training camp.
The Los Angeles Chargers center said during a conference call Wednesday that he has been cleared to return by doctors who did his neck surgery. Pouncey played in just five games last season before undergoing surgery in October.
The bigger challenge for Pouncey and his teammates might be where they will play if there is a season. The Chargers are slated to begin their first season at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood but Los Angeles County’s stay-at-home order could be extended through the end of August.
County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said Tuesday that restrictions will gradually be relaxed under a five-stage “roadmap to recovery.” The NFL said in a memo to teams last week that team facilities would all open at the same time.
Pouncey said he could see playing in another city if the Chargers could not be in Los Angeles this year.
“The concern is for the safety of people out there. All of us are dealing with change throughout these tough times and everyone has to adjust,” he said. “We’re all professionals whenever it comes to us having to work. If we have to move to a different state or city to get back to work and be able to feed our families, I am sure most of the guys would be for it.
“I can’t speak for most guys. I can only speak for myself and my brother (Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey). We’re ready to get back and for the world to reopen and get to normal as much as possible. … If that means social distancing and wearing masks, let’s do it and figure out a way. I think us sitting at home isn’t helping anything.”
Pouncey is training with his brother at a private gym in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and he said he is doing the same type of offseason conditioning that he has normally done.
“I feel great,” Pouncey said. “With any surgery there is going to be a little bit of a mental block and some steps, but I will be ready to go whenever that time comes.
“The biggest change is not being in the building. You are away from the guys and outside of the locker room. This is what your life is going to be once you’re retired. I’ve kind of figured out I don’t want to retire anytime soon.”
Depending on when training camp starts, Pouncey said it should take him only a couple of weeks to get ready. He said the biggest adjustment will be getting used to wearing pads again.
Pouncey will be one of the few returning players on a Chargers offensive line that has seen many changes. Los Angeles traded left tackle Russell Okung to Carolina for right guard Trai Turner and signed right tackle Bryan Bulaga in free agency. It also hired James Campen as offensive line coach after Pat Meyer left for Carolina.
Pouncey said he has known Turner and Bulaga for a while and got to meet with Campen when he was interviewing with coach Anthony Lynn.
Campen said he is excited to be working with Pouncey.
“I think with a player of his magnitude, you already see his leadership qualities in the Zoom meetings,” Campen said. “I have a high regard for him. His athletic ability is off the charts.”
Pouncey will also be snapping to a new quarterback after Philip Rivers signed with Indianapolis following 16 seasons with the Chargers. The Chargers are holding virtual meetings and have made their first run through the playbook during the first two weeks.
“I’m really excited about Tyrod Taylor and what he can do while (first-round pick) Justin Herbert is a big kid with a big arm,” Pouncey said. “There is going to be a lot of read option and pistol formations along with zone blocking schemes, but I am used to that when I played in Miami when Ryan Tannehill was the quarterback.”
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