Some fans and players might say the preseason is too long. Others might just be anxious to get into a game and off the same old practice field. About 72 hours away from his first NFL preseason game, San Diego Chargers rookie linebacker Larry English had only one thing on his mind.
"You spend all of camp hitting your teammates...I'm looking forward to hitting somebody, " the No. 16 overall pick said. "It'll be nice to get in a game and really get out there and hit someone else."
Scary words coming from a player who haunted Mid-American Conference quarterbacks to the tune of 31.5 sacks. The former Northern Illinois defensive end will make his San Diego debut, at home, against the Seahawks on Saturday.
English said he isn't feeling any nerves prior to the game, adding that he feels it is his biggest chance to get familiar with his new position. English is transitioning to outside linebacker in the 3-4 system run by former Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera. English played defensive end in the 4-3 defense at NIU.
"A lot of times [in the 3-4] my focus is rushing the passer," English said. "From that standpoint I'm real comfortable."
The Aurora native will be second on the depth chart to Shawne Merriman but will see considerable action. After the draft, head coach Norv Turner said English could see 500-600 snaps as a rookie, making him a big part of the Chargers' pass rush.
Partly due to an injury that forced Merriman out for almost all of 2008, the Chargers saw the second most passes in the NFL last season. San Diego runs a package that will put Merriman, English and Shuan Phillips on the field at the same time to pressure the quarterback.
"Larry has to come in here and crank it up and learn what this league is like," Turner said after the draft. "He's going to get in here and have the same learning curve that all young guys do, but certainly you can take a skill and if a guy comes in and is an outstanding pass rusher, you can get his hand in the ground or let him rush from the quarterback from the two-point stance."
"You don't have to deal with all the other things you have to deal with in getting a young player ready to play."
English said the 3-4 requires him to drop back into coverage more, but with continued repetitions in practice, he's becoming more comfortable doing so. To learn the position, English has two veteran Pro Bowlers in Merriman and Phillips to learn from.
"They've been helping me out a lot," the rookie linebacker said. "Just to see how they go about their business and how they do things is helping me."
While the pair has been teaching English on the field, they haven't forgotten that he's a rookie. He hasn't been tied to the field goal post but English has been carting Phillips and Merriman's equipment off the field as part of his rookie treatment.
"It hasn't been too bad, they make me carry pads and helmets off the field," he added. "Anything they can do to make you look foolish."
After signing a five-year, $13.4 million contract ($9.9 million guaranteed), on July 31 English bought a little condo out in San Diego. One thing he is looking forward to on the west coast is being out of the DeKalb wind tunnel when the winter months roll around.
The two-time MAC MVP would not give a 2009 prediction for his alma-mater NIU but said the Huskies have a good chance to improve from last season. In 2008 the Huskies finished 6-7, losing to Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl.
"They have a lot of talented players returning," English said, crediting the players and coaching staff for their work.
Saturday's preseason game between the Chargers and the Seattle Seahawks can be seen at 9 p.m. CT on NFL Network.
Another game of note: English and the Chargers will face former NIU running back Michael Turner and his Falcons on Satuarday, Aug. 29. English said facing Turner is a great opportunity for him in what will be just his third preseason game.
The Chargers open the regular season on Monday, Sept. 14 at Oakland. One of two Monday Night Football games for San Diego this season.