Ortiz hopes Bolts find he's a catch


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Jan 22, 2006
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Ortiz hopes Bolts find he's a catch


SAN DIEGO ---- He hopes his hands allow him to catch on.

Former San Diego State receiver Robert Ortiz stared at long odds over the weekend. He was among 40 undrafted players invited to the Chargers' weekend rookie orientation camp, in which a roster spot is the carrot at the end of their sticks.

The players drafted high ---- cornerback Antonio Cromartie, left tackle Marcus McNeill and quarterback Charlie Whitehurst ---- don't feel the pressure of Ortiz.

They have enough equity with the club that a blown play or two won't hurt their chances.

Not so with Ortiz.

"You have to go out and bring your 'A' game every day," Ortiz said.

Ortiz was option B last year at SDSU. Jeff Webb was the go-to guy, which made Ortiz's statistics go low. Ortiz had 39 receptions for 422 yards and five touchdowns, well behind what Webb collected.

Webb landed with the Chiefs in the sixth round, while Ortiz landed outside the draft hoping a chance might still arrive.

It did, when Ortiz's phone rang after the draft with a Hall of Fame wide receiver on the line.

Is that you, Charlie Joiner, the Chiefs' receivers coach? Sure enough. But another Hall of Famer was dialing Ortiz's digits, too: the Chargers' James Lofton.

"I had two Hall of Fame coaches on the phone,'' Ortiz said.

Lofton's pitch sounded better, so Ortiz gave Joiner the shake. Ortiz also declined offers from the Ravens and Bears, deciding that leaving home is overrated.

"Qualcomm Stadium is in my backyard, and that's where I played in college,'' said Ortiz, a Serra Mesa resident.Ý "I love San Diego.''

He also likes its NFL squad's stable of receivers ---- as in less is better.

"Out of all the teams, pretty much, the Chargers were the best opportunity for me, given the fact they didn't draft any receivers and didn't bring in that many receivers as other teams did,'' the 6-foot-1, 188-pound Ortiz said.

The top receiving spots are practically set with Keenan McCardell, Eric Parker, Vincent Jackson and Kassim Osgood, another San Diego State product. But after that, Ortiz hopes to compete for a position on the active roster or elsewhere.

"(Lofton) told me 'As long as you come in here and work hard, we are going to give you the best opportunity to at least make the practice squad,' '' Ortiz said. "That to me is getting my foot in the door.''

It's a window of opportunity Ortiz will seize. He proves it during position meetings, sitting up front and scribbling down Lofton's words as if they're the gospel.

The trick is transferring what he learns in the classroom into good marks on the field.

"You just got to keep working hard; you don't want to keep making the same mistake,'' Ortiz said. "You learn from them and move on.''

If not, the team takes its steps without you.

"You can't get down that there is only a few spots open,'' he said. "You got to work hard for that spot.

"They wanted you here; they wanted you in camp, so they are giving you that opportunity to get that spot. And I'm going to go try and get it.''

He's yet to earn a permanent locker. But he's got something nearly as good ---- coach Marty Schottenheimer's attention.

"He's sure-handed, and he's got pretty good quickness,'' Schottenheimer said.

"He's very solid catching the ball.''

Ortiz prays he's not a catch-and-release.

"I just want to be on this team,'' Ortiz said, "for a long time.''

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