Stadium toxicity makes way for football as Bolts host Lions
SAN DIEGO (AP) And so it begins, what could be the Chargers' final season in San Diego.
Philip Rivers will be throwing passes to Keenan Allen and Stevie Johnson, and Melvin Gordon will be looking for holes behind the ''Mayflower Line'' - big enough to drive a moving van though - when the Chargers host the Detroit Lions in a season opener Sunday at aging Qualcomm Stadium, the epicenter for angst among local football fans.
For a while, anyway, Rivers, Manti Te'o and Danny Woodhead will take the spotlight away from Dean Spanos, Mark Fabiani and Kevin Faulconer and the rest of the toxic stew that has swamped the city in the push for a new stadium.
Spanos, the team chairman and son of owner Alex Spanos, has his heart and wallet set on bolting for a shared stadium with the hated Oakland Raiders on the site of a former toxic waste dump in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson. Spanos and his point man, Fabiani - a former deputy mayor of L.A. - are reviled by many fans for walking away from negotiations with the city for a new stadium while partnering with the AFC West archrival Raiders and insulting Faulconer, the mayor.
Football will provide a respite, although fans will be wondering if this is a countdown to the day when the Chargers load the moving vans and the disco ditty ''San Diego Super Chargers'' falls silent. The Chargers will wear all-white uniforms and fans are being encouraged to wear white, as well. It could be construed as a possible lame-duck team waving the white flag to the city it's called home for 55 seasons.
Here are some things to look for when the Chargers - who began play in in Los Angeles in 1960 and moved to San Diego a year later - host Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and the rest of the Lions:
SEAU SALUTE: The Chargers will honor the late Junior Seau prior to kickoff with a ceremony that will include a video and an address from his daughter, Sydney, who spoke briefly after her father's Hall of Fame induction last month. It'll be interesting to see if any members of the Spanos family are on the field for the ceremony. Dean Spanos normally watches pregame warmups from the sideline but wasn't seen prior to either exhibition game this season. In 1988, Alex Spanos was booed during a ceremony retiring Dan Fouts' No. 14.
LINE `EM UP: Left tackle King Dunlap is the only Chargers offensive lineman occupying the same spot as in last year's opening day lineup. Left guard Orlando Franklin, who missed camp time with a leg injury, and right tackle Joe Barksdale are new. Center Chris Watt made five starts last year as a rookie after playing guard at Notre Dame. D.J. Fluker has moved to right guard after playing right tackle the last two years. He never played guard at Alabama.
THE MELVINS: Gordon makes his debut after being taken with the No. 15 pick overall in the May draft. Equally important to the Chargers, if not more so, will be the play of outside linebacker Melvin Ingram. He's had only six sacks in 29 games the last three seasons, but lost weight in the offseason and showed a burst in the exhibition season. San Diego had only 26 sacks last year.
LIONS LINES: The Lions had the NFL's second-stoutest defense last year. The tackle spot is a big one, with Haloti Ngata, acquired in a trade with Baltimore, replacing Ndamukong Suh, who signed with Miami. On offense, the new-look line will try to keep Stafford upright after he was sacked a career-high 45 times last season. The Lions parted ways with Dominic Raiola and Rob Sims, drafted Laken Tomlinson and traded for Manny Ramirez.
BIG PICTURE: The Lions were 11-5 in 2014 in Jim Caldwell's first season as coach and lost a wild-card playoff game to Dallas Cowboys. The Chargers missed the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons. San Diego has consecutive third-place finishes in the AFC West under Mike McCoy.
Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson
AP Sports Writer Noah Trister in Detroit contributed to this report.
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