The San Diego Chargers have always been perennial contenders for the AFC West division—however last year they finished tied for first and lost the tie-breaker to the Denver Broncos and missed the playoffs for a second consecutive year.
Philip Rivers had 20 interceptions and seven fumbles, both career highs. Antonio Gates, one of Rivers' favorite targets missed three games and had his lowest touchdown total since he was a rookie. Even special teams took a hit when Nate Kaeding was injured on the first play of 2011 which lead the Chargers to sign Nick Novak.
On special teams, the Chargers have one of the best punters in the game, Mike Scifres. Scifres was drafted out of Western Illinois University and was the 14th pick of the fifth-round in the 2003 draft. Scifres has been a solid punter throughout his career, averaging more than 50 yards a punt and always providing the deep coffin corner kicks when needed.
I was able to talk to Mike earlier this season and asked him about the outlook for the team this year, Philip Rivers struggles last year and his thoughts on Oakland Raider Pro Bowler Shane Lechler.
Thanks for taking the time to talk today Mike. After the disappointing year last year, how do you think you guys will fair this season?
We have an exciting team this year. The front office and the coaches are an excellent group. We all understand the expectations but don’t buy into it. We take it one day at a time, one play at a time. We can’t control what happens in January and February so we don’t worry about it till then and take it on a game by game basis.
Philip Rivers had one of his more difficult seasons last year. How do you think he’s going to cope with that for this year?
Rivers is a great quarterback and is a captain. Ninety-nine percent of the time he makes the decision. He’s going to go out week to week and control games.
It seems as though Shane Lechler of the Oakland Raiders is always representing the AFC at the Pro Bowl at the end of the year. Do you think you have a chance to overtake him this year and take his spot? How do you feel when people compare you to Lechler and think you should represent the AFC?
It’s a great challenge to go against Shane Lechler. He’s the best punter to ever play the game. Each Pro Bowl he gets, he deserves. My main focus is what I can do to make the team win. It means more to me that the team wins than any individual honor. Pro Bowl selections are not going to define my career. At the end of my career I want people to say "He was a team guy and he helped us out throughout his career." My competition is really with myself. I usually go with what comes to me. If people put me in the category with Lechler and feel that I should be at the Pro Bowl then I’m happy to be there.
I’ve noticed that you keep yourself busy with some notable charities, in particular the Children’s Hospital. Why is that something that’s close to you?
When I was a kid I was in the hospital for a period of time. I feel it’s important to give back. They gave a lot to my family and I. During the season, we go to the hospital (usually a group of about five of us) and stop by to say hi to the kids. You feel so good once you get out of there. It’s a great feeling to know that you’re helping kids. You give them a bit of your story and they feel better.
After Katrina, my teammates and I donated a whole game room to the teenagers in the hospital. It’s small but it gets their mind off of things. Kids leave an impression on you that you can’t forget them.
This interview was done before last week’s Monday Night Football game and it looks like The Chargers are continuing to struggle but Mike Scifres is one of the team’s bright spots.
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