Head coach Norv Turner of the San Diego Chargers leads his team against the Denver Broncos at INVESCO Field at Mile High on January 2, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Chargers defeated the Broncos 33-28.
The last three days were so good, Norv Turner knew he didn't need to see a fifth.
The Chargers head coach has canceled Wednesday's final practice, ending training camp a day earlier than scheduled. The team will leave its Mission Valley complex at about 3:15 p.m. Wednesday for a flight to Dallas, where it will scrimmage the Cowboys on Thursday and Friday leading up to their Sunday preseason game.
This was the best-case scenario all along, said Turner, who announced to the team he had canceled Wednesday's session before the start of Tuesday's practice, thinking it would energize the players.
"And it did," Turner said. "We had an outstanding practice. We had a physical practice, and we had a high-energy practice. When you go out and do that, I think you get better."
Tight end Antonio Gates was a full participant for the third straight day Tuesday, perhaps the brightest sight at the end of a camp that wasn't short on positivity.
Gates continues to make ground in his battle with plantar fasciitis, but as part of the training staff's timetable, he isn't expected to spend much time on cleats during the Dallas trip.
“We can back off him a little bit and not go crazy with this thing,” Turner said. “He’s had three really impressive days, so he’s made great progress.”
A middle linebacker corps that opened camp as its biggest unknown -- veteran acquisition Takeo Spikes, second-year player Donald Butler, and rookie Jonas Mouton topped the depth chart despite zero career game snaps with team -- has continued to develop, and that's without mentioning the depth-providing return of nine-year Charger Stephen Cooper.
Linebackers coach John Pagano said that group's progress was the biggest takeaway for him.
"Just how everybody is picking up everything so fast," Pagano said. "I told these guys, 'After seven days, it's going to be like riding a bike. Let's go out.' They're understanding what (defensive coordinator Greg) Manusky wants to do. They understand what I want to do in the meeting room. They're taking notes and writing everything down and applying it onto the field, so that's a positive."
A couple of players who've been among the off-season's most improved players spent Tuesday afternoon on the sidelines.
Wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu missed practice with a toe injury sustained while making a Monday reception, but he said Tuesday in the locker room that he wasn't concerned. Tight end Kory Sperry also sat.
Meanwhile, the 34-year-old Spikes enjoyed a planned rest day.
Now, on Wednesday, he and the rest of the team will have another.