Edwards a story even if GM wishes he weren't


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Jan 22, 2006
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Edwards a story even if GM wishes he weren't

July 26, 2006

Donnie Edwards should not be a story as the Chargers begin training camp. He should just be playing, being Donnie Edwards, the linebacker who grew up here and came home again.

“I don't think he's a story at all,” A.J. Smith says. “He'll be a story in October. Right now, I don't think anybody cares.”

Well, some people do. Yours truly, for one. Smith is the Chargers' general manager, not my editor. Edwards is a story because Smith has had it up to his uvula with him and openly has put the 11-year veteran on the trading block.

And Edwards is a story because nobody knows if this football team can be as good without him.

Smith obviously believes his defense can get along without Edwards. Talking to head coach Marty Schottenheimer, long a fan of Edwards, one gets the feeling he doesn't know if it can. Edwards may be 33 and on the downside of his career, he may not be the leader he's reputed to be, but he's still one of the best cover linebackers in the NFL, and the Chargers need all the help in coverage they can get. He may be the Chargers' best defensive back. And he's playoff-hardened.

Edwards didn't enjoy a sensational 2005, but he damaged his knee – he had surgery for a torn meniscus in January – and played hurt the final 10 games. True, the defense is geared to funnel ball carriers in his direction, so he makes a lot of tackles. It's been pointed out that the tackles come deeper down the field now, but at least he makes them. He made 152 stops in 2005, ranking fourth in the NFL. San Diego topped The League in run defense.

“He played well last year,” Schottenheimer says. “I think he's a winning NFL linebacker; he's a playmaker. Talk to anyone on the defensive staff and they'll tell you the same thing.”

Maybe we'll do that. Oh, sorry. Schottenheimer won't allow the media to talk to his assistants. So we're forced to go back to the head coach.
“He never comes off the field,” Schottenheimer says. “He plays hurt. He's not that big, but he has one of those bend-but-don't-break bodies. Look at his numbers. He makes plays. That's what it's about on defense – and offense. Making plays.”

Schottenheimer can use playmakers.

“I think every team can,” he says. “Don't you?”

Thanks for asking. Yes.

Edwards, in camp now with the rookies and quarterbacks (veterans who had offseason surgery report early), is cordial but refuses to discuss the matter of his becoming trade chum.

“I'm not even thinking about it,” he says. “I'm not going to talk about it. I just want to let it go and move on. I've talked about it enough. I'm just getting ready for the season, out here with the rookies. My body feels good. I played 10 games last year with a torn meniscus and played through it. I've missed one game in my career.”

Smith thinks Edwards is under instructions (from agent Tom Condon?) to no longer discuss his situation.

“He's been told to go underground,” Smith insists. “Just shut up and don't work the back door with your media friends.”

The reason Edwards in on the block is pretty simple. He's scheduled to earn $4 million in this, the final year of his contract. He wants to be paid as much as the best linebackers earn. Smith thinks Edwards makes enough.

Thus far, according to the GM, no offers have arrived for Edwards, although New Orleans is said to be interested. Smith isn't actively shopping him. Edwards is just out there. He may stay out there until the trading deadline, Oct. 17.

“He's not going to be cut, obviously,” Smith says. “He's on the market. What's happening, I have no idea. It only goes down when I say it goes down. I'm driving the boat here.

“Teams have shown little or no interest at this time. On Oct. 17, it all stops, and he's a member of the Chargers. He's on our football team. I like Donnie, and I like his contract. Donnie has a problem with his contract and has had a problem with his contract for three consecutive years. I'm tired of this. We're trying to accommodate him.”

The way things are developing, it appears Edwards, if he stays, may take fewer snaps on running downs, giving way to Matt Wilhelm, who is more likely to take on blockers near the line of scrimmage. But, if healthy, Edwards can run. Hard to count him out.

“I'm just tired of all his bull(bleep) and innuendo he's put out there,” Smith says. “I don't want to talk about it anymore.”

But, of course, the GM will, although he doesn't like to discuss football business.

“Just shut up and play; that's your job,” Smith says.

But even he admits Edwards can still play.

“Yes, he's a viable player,” the GM says. “He's not a nonplayer. But we've got a lot of players and a lot of contracts. If he's still here, at the end of the year we'll decide who the Chargers are. You can speculate what we do with him.”

No speculation required.

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