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Tra Thomas Out; Marcus McNeill ... Not In

Rookie Grimes gets the call

By Michael Gehlken
|  Monday, Aug 23, 2010  |  Updated 3:01 PM PDT
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The Chargers were poised to add an offensive lineman Monday. Fans wanted Marcus McNeill. They got Lee Grimes.

Grimes, an undrafted rookie free agent guard, joined the Chargers Monday to replace left tackle Tra Thomas, who has retired from the league. Grimes played right tackle his senior year at Texas A&M and was a second-team all-Big 12 Conference selection. He gives the Chargers depth, flexibility and, well, someone else who isn't Marcus McNeill.

For now, that seems to be fine.

Through two preseason games, the Chargers have survived life without their star left tackle, thanks in large part to fill-in Brandyn Dombrowski. He passed his most challenging test yet on Saturday, containing Cowboys All-Pro linebacker DeMarcus Ware in preseason action.

The versatile Tyronne Green is Dombrowski's projected backup. After that, it's prayer.

Thomas gave the Chargers 12 years of NFL experience at McNeill's vacated position.

“It’s disappointing on our end that we don’t have [Thomas] for this year,” General Manager A.J. Smith told the San Diego U-T on Sunday. “It would have been a good veteran insurance policy with many years of experience to call upon if needed. But Tra felt it was time to step away, and we respect that. We appreciate him making his decision early.”

McNeill, a restricted free agent, has not reported to Chargers training camp. He is seeking a new, long-term contract.

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