COSTA MESA, Calif. — It’s been a long time since defensive tackle Brandon Mebane won a game in his hometown of Los Angeles.

“Oh wow, probably like, man, like ’02 or something like that,” Mebane said, going all the way back to his senior season at Crenshaw High School.

When his stellar college career at California ended with an 0-4 record at UCLA and Southern California, and with no hope in sight of the NFL returning to his hometown, Mebane assumed he would never again play in front of friends and family.

That will change Sunday, when Mebane’s Los Angeles Chargers play their first preseason game since moving north from San Diego.

“It’s very exciting to be back home and playing in Los Angeles and very fun, very fun,” Mebane said. “I didn’t think LA would have any teams. The only teams I thought they would ever have was UCLA and USC as far as football.”

Mebane will see plenty of familiar faces, in the stands and on the opposing sideline with the visiting Seattle Seahawks. He played his first nine seasons in Seattle before Mebane decided he was ready for a new challenge.

There is no bad blood on Mebane’s part, anyway, over the three-year contract he signed with the Chargers in 2016.

“Nah, ain’t nothing personal. I don’t have to prove nothing,” Mebane said. “Really, a lot of people don’t know when I left I left cause I wanted to leave. I could have went back. It wasn’t that they didn’t want me anymore. It just felt like it was time to leave.”

After playing in a 3-4 defense for the first time as a professional last season, Mebane is reunited with defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and back in the 4-3 front he prefers. Mebane played under Bradley in Seattle for four seasons, including the Seahawks’ Super Bowl win in 2014.

The pairing again allows Mebane to focus on trying to beat the offensive lineman in front of him instead of handling multiple gap responsibilities.

“The majority of my success came from this scheme. I love it,” Mebane said. “I like that guys have to win their one-on-ones and stuff like that. I just like it all the way around.”

For Bradley, the reliable veteran entering his 11th season provides leadership to more than a defensive front adjusting to new roles.

“He was a very strong leader in Seattle, but he is a strong leader throughout the whole team here. Defensively, he had such an impact, but here you see offensive players talk to him,” Bradley said.

Bradley pointed to a recent team meeting where Mebane offers his congratulations to defensive back Desmond King for a play the rookie made in practice. King was caught off-guard by the praise, pleasantly shocked that the established lineman would care.

“But he has that kind of impact, you know,” Bradley said. “He elevates everybody around him. I just can’t say enough good things about Brandon Mebane and what he means to this team.”

Mebane won’t have much of an impact in helping fill StubHub Center, the Chargers’ intimate temporary home before joining the Los Angeles Rams at their new stadium in Inglewood in 2020.

Citing the higher cost of tickets in a venue that can only hold 30,000 fans, Mebane is only inviting his usual contingent of friends and family to attend games there.


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DAN GREENSPAN
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