Quarterback Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers takes the field 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 chain-link fence at the San Diego Chargers team facility will be bent backward Saturday, its steel wire cricketing and cranking as fans test the alloy's durability.
Finally, they know, a new Chargers season is about to begin.
One day after the NFL Players Association and league owners reached an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement to lift a nearly 20-week-long lockout, the Chargers announced Tuesday they will begin training camp Saturday and open their first session in pads to the public.
The practice, free for patrons, will run from 4-6 p.m. with gates opening at 3 p.m.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said he is grateful the lockout did not affect the preseason and regular season game schedule.
"I think they key thing, really, to make sure everyone knows is we missed nothing," Rivers said. "There wasn't a game that would have been played in July or June or May ... I know as players, our minds will be fresh and excited to get back out there, and I'm sure the fans will be the same. They feel like they've missed something. It's like that toy you couldn't find, that you find underneath the couch after you looked for a few months."
By Saturday's session at Chargers Park on Murphy Canyon Road, the team's roster will have taken form, and the process has begun already.
The team agreed to a four-year deal with tackle Jeromey Clary, a three-year deal with Takeo Spikes, a one-year deal with tight end Randy McMichael and a one-year deal with safety Bob Sanders.
Wide receiver Vincent Jackson will sign his one-year, $11.3-million franchise tender on Friday at 3:01 p.m. PST, or one minute after the soonest available time, his agent Neil Schwartz said Tuesday.
Nineteen undrafted rookie free agents agreed to join the Chargers in camp: QB Scott Tolzien (Wisconsin), RB Isaac Odim (Minnesota-Duluth), FB Patrick DiMarco (South Carolina), WR Adrian Cannon (Maryland), WR Vidal Hazelton (Cincinnati), WR Cameron Kenney (Oklahoma), WR Travon Patterson (Colorado), WR Giovanni Stanley (Whittier), TE Brad Taylor (Baylor) T Cody Habben (Washington), T Bo Thran (Oregon), C Colin Baxter (Arizona), DE Damik Scafe (Boston College), DE Mike Blanc (Auburn), DT Kelly Griffin (Texas Christian), LB Darryl Gamble (Georgia), LB Bront Bird (Texas Tech), CB Ramon Broadway (Arkansas) and CB Stephen Harrison (Kansas State).
As for the lockout, it lasted about 136 days past most fans' patience.
Center Nick Hardwick is the Chargers' player union representative.
He said Tuesday his primary role was to keep contact with the NFLPA, learn the latest facts, and then disseminate the information to his teammates.
"I'm just super proud and honored to be a part of it, to say, when I look back on it, that this was a historic moment, and I had a little hand in it," Hardwick said. "I mean, a very small hand. Maybe a pinkie. Maybe just the tip of the pinkie. But I got to sit in. I got to be informed. It's a crucial time in the history of football."
The agreeement reached Monday ensures labor peace in the league for the next 10 seasons.
Hardwick said the players were prepared for a longer lockout, if it came to that.
"We just sticked with the plan," Hardwick said, "making sure it's a fair deal for years to come, so everybody is happy and nobody that's current playing, except maybe David Binn, has to go through this again."