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Saturday, September 23, 2023

Bolts view finale as anything but meaningless

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There’s nothing for coach Norv Turner and his streaking San Diego Chargers to debate.

Although the Chargers have wrapped up the AFC’s No. 2 seed and a first-round playoff bye, they plan to approach Sunday’s regular-season finale at home against the Washington Redskins as anything but meaningless.

Turner said Monday that the Chargers will prepare as they always do, with no plans to rest healthy starters. He did say that some Chargers who’ve been playing with injuries might get a rest.

“Our players know we’re going to go play. They want to play,” Turner said.

The AFC West champion Chargers (12-3) had the weekend off after beating Tennessee 42-17 on Christmas night, their 10th straight victory.

LaDainian Tomlinson enjoyed laying around all weekend, watching games on TV “and just having nothing to do.”

This Sunday, though, he wants to play.

“Yeah, I do,” he said. “With us having the bye I think it would be good for us to get out and play. We will have a whole week to rest next week. Just to keep the rhythm of how we are playing, I think that is important. I think the only way guys shouldn’t play is if they are injured or battling something that needs rest. If you are healthy, why sit out?”

Wide receiver Vincent Jackson said the Chargers have plenty more to work toward beyond the Washington game.

“I think there are probably about three more games on our schedule,” he said, referring to the playoffs, including a hoped-for berth in the Super Bowl. “Just doing what we’ve been doing, consistency, preparing in the meeting rooms and just leaving nothing to chance.”

Redskins coach Jim Zorn doesn’t expect to see San Diego’s starters play the whole game.

“They can’t sit their guys down for three weeks and expect them to come out and play the first game of the playoffs. I don’t think I could do that,” Zorn said. “But I don’t necessarily think I would play my starters the whole game. I wouldn’t put any words in Norv’s mouth at all, but they may treat it more like a preseason attack, with their starters playing in a limited role.”

Although Tomlinson is on pace to finish with less than 1,000 yards for the first time in his brilliant nine-year career, he said he is looking forward to being healthy heading into the playoffs. Last year he injured his groin in the regular-season finale, which limited him in a first-round win against Indianapolis and sidelined him for a loss at Pittsburgh.

The year before, he hurt his left knee in a divisional-round win at Indianapolis and barely played in the AFC championship game loss at New England.

“You will cherish it, you really do,” Tomlinson said. “You cherish when you are healthy and able to crank it up and go do what you want to do versus playing hurt and just trying to gut it out for the team. I am so thankful to be in this position, to have two feet to run on.

“I haven’t taken a lot of shots like I usually take,” he said. “And just to stay fresh throughout the year and I haven’t been beat up other than the first game when I hurt my ankle. Other than that, it’s been great.”

Tomlinson sprained his right ankle in the season-opening win at Oakland and sat out the following two games.

“It feels good to be at this point and say we are at the position where we have accomplished everything we need to for the regular season — we got the first-round bye. And there’s not a need to win one game to get to the playoffs.”

The Chargers were 2-3 after consecutive losses to Pittsburgh and Denver.

“I think more than anything it gave us a chance to back up and really evaluate what kind of team we wanted to be, how we wanted to be portrayed and what kind of performance we wanted to put out on the field on Sundays, more than anything,” Tomlinson said. “So when people kind of jumped off and said, ‘These guys are going to be done,’ it gave us an opportunity to say, ‘Hey guys, let’s just put performance, after performance, after performance out on the field and let’s see where we stand after 16 games.’ That was the turning point.”

The Chargers are looking to sweep the NFC East, after having already beaten the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys.

“I still think it is one of the toughest divisions in football, if not the toughest,” Tomlinson said. “I think it says a lot about our team also being ready to play against that division. It’s more a credit to what we’ve done more than anything.”

AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich in Ashburn, Va., contributed to this report.

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