COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — If it was up to Los Angeles Chargers safety Derwin James, his training camp debut would have happened before Thursday.
The Chargers decided to be cautious with their first-round draft pick as he recovered from a minor hamstring strain and delayed James’ first workout in pads.
“I feel like I was ready Monday, but you know it’s an ongoing process.” James said. “You never know with those soft tissue injuries, so I know they got my back. They only want what’s best.”
James sustained the injury one week prior to the start of training camp while working out on his own, but there was no hint the former Florida State standout was limited in any way. During a position drill, James even joined his fellow defensive backs in an impromptu dance party.
In the team period, James was smooth and explosive in limited repetitions to earn praise from head coach Anthony Lynn.
“He looks good,” Lynn said. “He looks good in his uniform. I mean, he’s a good-looking safety, but it’s just good to see him back out there because he had such a good offseason.”
The decision to be cautious with James was understandable after cornerback Jason Verrett sustained a torn Achilles tendon during a conditioning test last week before the start of training camp. Trevor Williams, a possible replacement for Verrett, sustained an ankle injury on Tuesday, but Lynn said it was not a high-ankle sprain and that Williams could return in a week.
James acknowledged some frustration at missing the start of his first training camp, but recognized why the Chargers would not want to risk having the injury linger into the regular season. Instead, he is focused on making the most of his time going forward.
“They know what I can do,” James said. “They drafted me in the first round for a reason. Just really come out here and become a master of my craft, learn my movements and be where I’m supposed to be on the field.”
With James on the field, the Chargers can start to figure out their safety pairings in earnest. Tre Boston started 15 games last season, but was not re-signed in free agency. James was drafted No. 17 overall to fill that vacancy and play next to incumbent Jahleel Addae.
James is learning how to play as both a free safety and a strong safety right now, but Addae said differentiating between the two positions can be overblown in coordinator Gus Bradley’s 4-3 defense.
“Coach always says it best,” Addae said. “We don’t have no strong safety, we don’t have no free safety. We just have safeties. All of us are interchangeable.”
James credited Addae and the other Chargers defensive backs with helping him adjust quickly to the NFL.
“I sit right behind him in the meeting room and I try to pick his brain, and he don’t mind helping me,” James said. “He’s a great guy. Adrian Phillips, he helps me. Our whole DB room and our coaches that we have are great people to be around, and they only want what’s best.”
Still, James compared the learning process to feeding a baby.
“They give me a little spoonful, and then I got to wait a little bit, and they give me some more,” James said.
NOTES: The Chargers signed receiver Marcus Peterson and cornerback Channing Stribling on Thursday after placing Verrett and tight end Austin Roberts (torn ACL) on injured reserve.
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