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McNeill Prepares to Prove His Worth

Chargers tackle expected to debut Sunday



    McNeill Prepares to Prove His Worth
    Getty Images
    Tackle Marcus McNeill of the San Diego Chargers blocks against the San Francisco 49ers on Sept. 4, 2009, at Qualcomm Stadium.

    Chargers left tackle Marcus McNeill dug his cleats into the field and spaced them a shoulder distance apart. His right foot bordered a small orange cone, his left a 266-pound linebacker.

    Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera stood behind Brandon Lang with his arms crossed, and linebacker Cyril Obiozor was close by waiting his turn. Lang lowered into his stance, paused, and then shot off the line of scrimmage in attempt to speed past the team's awoken giant.

    On Wednesday, McNeill was getting ready to play. Soon after, he was getting paid.

    McNeill signed a five-year extension worth as much as $48.5 million. The deal will keep McNeill, 26, with the Chargers through the 2015 season.

    Thanks in part to Wednesday's speed-rushing drills designed specifically for him, the team could begin cashing in as early as this Sunday. McNeill is expected to make his season debut against the Rams.

    “I wanted to go out and get some live rushes,” McNeill said. “Of course, we have very uptempo practices, but sometimes you need that live rush. … Lang, a great rusher, and a new, young guy give me some speed off the edge and get ready for the game.”

    McNeill, a two-time Pro Bowler, missed all of OTAs, training camp and the first two games of the season before signing his one-year restricted free agent tender. Sunday will be his first game action in nine months.

    Chargers coach Norv Turner commended McNeill for the physical shape at which he joined the team, and McNeill said he is becoming more prepared by the day.

    McNeils cautious, though, about jumping into full action in his first game back.

    "I'm not completely back in the starting unit yet," McNeill said. "I have a long way to go. I want to make sure my footwork and all my technique is completely salvageable before I step out on the field. There would be nothing worse than for me to get out there unprepared and unready, and trying to be protecting [Philip Rivers'] blind side.

    “You can't have that, so me and [Brandyn] Dombrowski definitely are going to go back and forth on everything, to make sure everything is right, before I get a chance to step back into that starting position."