If not now ... when?
SAN DIEGO -- Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson had been harassed by opposing defenses for two consecutive weeks, so he was in no mood to receive the same treatment from the local media Wednesday after the team returned to practice following a 38-14 loss at New England last weekend.
"If you're asking me if I said something to the team, I haven't," Tomlinson said. "I really don't feel like there's a need to say anything right now. You guys want us to start panicking or something because we lost one game. That's not what we're going to do. It's a long season. We played football and the Patriots beat us. They gave us a good whuppin'."
Tomlinson went on to say the spanking might be just what the Chargers (1-1) needed, which sounds strange until you realize that maybe some guys still are living off last season's 14-2 regular season. Consider the offense. A year after leading the league with an average of 30.8 points a game, the unit is averaging just 14 points and has yet to score in the first half. The transition from Cam Cameron's playcalling to Norv Turner could be a factor -- Cameron spent years learning each player's strengths and weaknesses while Turner is in his first year on the job -- but the mindset that everything will be OK could be as issue as well.
"You jog out there and you think, 'It's going to happen. We're going to score. Twenty-one (Tomlinson) is back there, 85 (Antonio Gates) is out there,' " quarterback Philip Rivers said. "I'm not saying that's in our minds, but subconsciously maybe that's what's taking place."
Perhaps the breakout will come Sunday at Green Bay. Until then, the Chargers will have to deal with questions about how they'll handle the loss at New England. Outside concern is understandable considering it has been four years since the Chargers were dominated so thoroughly, that defeat coming by a 37-8 margin at Denver in November 2003. In the three-plus seasons since, few teams have been as consistently competitive as the Chargers, in terms of margin of defeat. They lost a total of three games last season, including the playoffs, each by a field goal. The year before that they lost seven games, four of them by four points or less. And the season before that, they lost a total of four games by an average of five points.
Rivers went to great lengths to say he believes the club will bounce back Sunday, but he also admitted he can't say with a certainty how guys will react because so few of them have been on the receiving end of a spanking like that. In fact, only 16 of the 53 players on the active roster were with the Chargers when they lost by 29 to the Broncos four years ago.
"This will be kind of a test for us," he said, "because not many of us have been through something like that since we've been here."
The talk during the offseason and training camp was how the transition from Cameron to Turner would be seamless because Turner installed the offense in 2001 when he was the Chargers' coordinator. But that may have been wishful thinking. The reality is that it's going to take time for him to learn his players and for them to get comfortable to the rhythm of his playcalling.
"There's a transition that still has to take place, and it'll definitely get easier for him and for us as the year goes on," center Nick Hardwick said. "... There's going to be a time when he finally is like: All right, this side (of the line is) good at one thing, or this guy is good at one thing but he's not so good at the other aspect of that play, so maybe we're better at running it to one side than to the other. And one side of the line is better at doing one particular portion of the play, and the other side is (not as comfortable). It takes time, but we'll get there."
The question is, when? The Chargers hope the answer is Sunday.