Upon accepting the Chargers’ head coaching job in January, Anthony Lynn made it clear that he’d demand accountability from his team. His message was simple. He would be honest, blunt and command total commitment from every one of his players. Therefore, it can be assumed that he would demand no less than perfect attendance at training camp practices; unless extenuating circumstances apply. On Monday, Chargers Nation was left to ponder the exact meaning of ‘extenuating circumstances.’
According to Alex Marvez of Sporting News, two sources have stated that Lynn refused to grant quarterback Philip Rivers, or tight end Antonio Gates, permission to attend the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony for former teammate, and Chargers legend, LaDanian Tomlinson. The ceremony, annually held in Canton, OH, occurs this Saturday, August 5. Also on Saturday, the Chargers will hold a joint practice with the crosstown Los Angeles Rams, in their new home at the StubHub Center in Carson. With the practice taking place at the same time as the Hall of Fame ceremony, Rivers and Gates would be unable attend both.
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Both Rivers and Gates have spent multiple years as Tomlinson’s teammate and friend. It is understandable that they would want to be present to see him accept pro football’s highest honor. In fact, another former teammate (and current New Orleans Saints’ quarterback) Drew Brees, plans to fly to the enshrinement after his team’s practice. Tomlinson is a beloved figure in Chargers lore, and still has a deep connection to the organization. He currently serves as a Special Assistant to the Owner, and is involved in many of the Chargers media, public relations and operations tasks.
A ‘Joint Decision?’
It should be well-noted that Lynn has denied refusing this permission. Late Monday, Lynn refuted the report that he was blocking both Rivers and Gates from attending the ceremony. He stated:
“I’ve talked to Philip. I’ve talked to Antonio. I’ve even talked to LT. We’re all on the same page. At the end of the day, we’re going to make the best decision for our football team, and that’s it.”
Lynn went on to say that no call had been made about the players’ plans. He indicated that it would be a ‘joint decision,’ to be reached soon.
The uncertainty surrounding Rivers and Gates schedule of events on Saturday has caused many Chargers fans to ask ‘What’s the big deal?’ Both are seasoned veterans, and potential Hall of Famers, as well. Missing one practice is not likely to affect their progress. Furthermore, there is precedent for granting players time off to attend the Hall of Fame ceremony. Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was granted permission to attend on Saturday, so that he may support his his former quarterback, Kurt Warner. Warner is also a member of the 2017 Hall of Fame class.
The Bottom Line
So, the question remains? Why would Anthony Lynn deny Rivers and Gates permission to attend a once-in-a-lifetime event honoring their friend, former teammate and current member of the organization?
For Lynn, the answer is simple…accountability.
Whether fans, the media or even the players believe it to be right or wrong, Lynn is responsible for the success of the franchise. His stance on the subject is surely no sign of disrespect to Philip Rivers, Antonio Gates or LaDanian Tomlinson. It’s also not a slight to the organization or its fans. It’s simply Lynn keeping the promise he made back in January. He will set the standard for the team, and hold his players accountable. During mini-camp, Lynn was critical of his team’s play on opening day. He let the team know in a very blunt manner and they responded with a much better effort the very next day. He set the standard, and will continue to do so as he sees best for the entire team, and not just its stars. No one player’s interest comes before the good of the Chargers, as a whole.
Rivers and Gates also have decisions to make. If permission is granted, they will most likely attend the ceremony and the potential storm will fade out to sea. However, if permission is not granted, it may cause animosity between the team’s coach and its two most tenured stars. They could choose to attend without permission, and risk being fined by the team. Financially, that probably won’t be a major hit to Rivers or Gates. It could, nonetheless, send a mixed message to the Chargers locker room. Would their decision to attend, despite their coach’s wishes, undermine his authority among the remaining Chargers players? Only time will tell–but it’s a slippery slope on which to travel.
Lynn may make the popular decision. He may not. However, one thing is certain. Lynn will act in what he truly believes to be in the best interest of the team. Rivers and Gates have always been consummate team players and nothing suggests that this situation will be any different. However, making the right decision is not always the easy thing to do. It is certainly not always the most popular. The hope is that everyone will be accurately focused on the most important responsibility. That is the protecting the best interest of the 2017 Los Angeles Chargers. For the sake of Chargers fans everywhere, let’s hope that all parties involved do not forget that.
– Mike D’Abate is the Managing Editor for cover32/Chargers and covers the Los Angeles Chargers. Like and follow on Follow on Twitter @MG973024 or @cover32_LAC