Originally created 07/24/99

No Leaf, but no worries for Chargers

SAN DIEGO -- Twenty minutes into the San Diego Chargers' first training camp practice, Ryan Leaf's throwing shoulder flared up and he spent the rest of the workout standing in the background and watching.

In other words, he's already in midseason form.

Jim Harbaugh and Erik Kramer took almost all the snaps Friday morning, which is what the Chargers envision for the regular season. Some of their passes went to All-Pro linebacker Junior Seau, who might be used as a tight end in certain schemes.

The Chargers think Leaf may have aggravated a shoulder injury he suffered while diving on a loose ball during workouts in June. He was sent to see a doctor after the morning practice, possibly to have an MRI exam.

"It's being more safe than sorry," Leaf said.

After all of Leaf's foulups as a rookie last year, the Chargers went out and got not one, but two veteran quarterbacks. The thinking is that if one gets hurt -- and both are injury prone -- they'll have another one to plug in. That would relegate Leaf to being an expensive clipboard holder.

"The critical quarterback position is being developed in San Diego," new coach Mike Riley said after the first practice. "It's a different picture today than it was yesterday, and it's much different than it was six months ago before we even got Jim. I think we've got a pretty nice-looking picture right now."

The Chargers got Harbaugh in a March trade with Baltimore and signed Kramer on Thursday evening, two days after he was left stunned by his release from the Chicago Bears. Craig Whelihan, who started the final seven games last year after Leaf was benched, likely won't last to see the regular season.

Leaf and Whelihan combined for 34 interceptions last year.

The Chargers have won only nine games the last two seasons, and Riley made it clear that Harbaugh and Kramer are here to help them win, not necessarily to mentor Leaf.

"I don't think either one of them needs to be ordained that," Riley said. "They've got other things to worry about. The key for him is to watch these guys."

Leaf said he welcomed the addition of Kramer.

"The more the merrier," he said. "I think it's a positive thing. I'm not hurt by it at all. You've got two guys who have been in the league forever."

Riley feels it's better for a quarterback to play as much as possible during his development, but said the bulk of Leaf's playing time this season likely will be during the five exhibition games.

"We will look at our situation first," said Riley, who was hired away from Oregon State after interim head coach June Jones bolted for Hawaii. "Our No. 1 job is to win games, so just to play someone for experience, we're not going to schedule that in."

Kramer, meanwhile, went through his first full practice since halfway through last season, when he was sidelined by shoulder and knee injuries that required surgery.

"I feel a little rusty right now, but I'm sure I'll come back fine," he said.

At one point Kramer threw a wounded-duck pass, prompting a fan to yell, "Quack quack!"

"If they would have seen me throwing three weeks ago, I don't think that would have raised any eyebrows today," Kramer said. "I think I've got enough experience that things seem to come fairly quickly. My main focus is to get back 100 percent where I'm not feeling any effects from my rehab."


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