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Chargers break camp; Rivers expects better showing in AFC West race

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SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Chargers broke training camp on Thursday, saying they'd accomplished what they set out to do under the hot summer sun.

All breaking camp really means is that the veterans don't have to stay in the team hotel anymore, and the Chargers will follow their regular-season schedule, which means practices are closed to the media.

Rookie running back Melvin Gordon practiced briefly Thursday and then watched the rest of the workout to rest his sprained right ankle. He said he expects to play in Saturday night's exhibition game at Arizona.

His goal is to "just go out there and be sharp. That's the whole thing about training camp, is to go out there and be clean on anything you do."

Gordon, the 15th pick overall in the draft, carried six times for 11 yards in last week's preseason opener against Dallas.

He's expected to help take some pressure off Philip Rivers, who was sacked 36 times last year and played through back and chest injuries.

The Chargers rebuilt their line this offseason, re-signing left tackle King Dunlap and bringing in left guard Orlando Franklin and right tackle Joe Barksdale. They've moved D.J. Fluker from right tackle to right guard.

All the Chargers had to do to reach the playoffs last year was to win at Kansas City in the finale. Instead, Rivers was sacked seven times and backup quarterback Chase Daniel led the Chiefs to a 19-7 victory. The Chargers missed the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons.

Once the season starts, the Chargers hope to fare better in the AFC West. They have consecutive third-place finishes under coach Mike McCoy, including being swept by Denver and Kansas City last year.

Naturally, that doesn't sit well with Rivers, who on Monday signed a four-year contract extension that could be worth $84 million.

Rivers helped lead the Chargers to four straight division titles from 2006-09 and a wild-card berth in McCoy's first season, 2013.

"We've got to win games in our division to win the division," Rivers said. "You can't go 3-3 or worse in your division games and expect to win the division. We've gone way too long. Winning the West is what we've talked about and what our mindset is."

After Saturday night, the Chargers will have games against Seattle and San Francisco before opening the regular season at home against Detroit on Sept. 13.

"Although camp is officially breaking, we've still got to keep that camp-mode mentality for a couple more weeks, keep improving as we go toward the opener," Rivers said.

Rookie linebacker Denzel Perryman and second-year cornerback Jason Verrett also sat out Thursday's practice. They could have quad or hamstring injuries. The team doesn't have to issue an injury report until opening week of the regular season.


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