Rivera wonders if relocation chatter is affecting Chargers

SAN DIEGO (AP) San Diego Chargers players and coaches say they aren't distracted by increasing chatter that the team will relocate to Los Angeles.

Ron Rivera wonders otherwise.

Rivera, the coach of the Carolina Panthers, knows all about the Chargers' long, bruising stadium saga because he was on San Diego's staff from 2007-10.

During a conference call with San Diego reporters Wednesday, Rivera was asked about some of the problems encountered this year by the Chargers (5-7), who visit the defending NFC champion Panthers (4-8) on Sunday.

Rivera mentioned injuries, and then segued into the possible relocation.

''Some other things that have hurt them, too, has been ... I don't want to call it a distraction, but wanting to get a new stadium,'' Rivera said. ''I know Mr. Spanos would love to be able to keep that team there -and again, that comes up every year and quite honestly it weighs a little bit on the players - at least I believe it does, from my opinion.

''But at the end of the day, whatever's going to happen is going to happen for the organization. I really do believe it's a tremendous organization. I think the Spanos family has done a great job there.''

On Nov. 8, San Diego voters overwhelmingly defeated the Chargers' ballot measure asking for $1.15 billion in hotel occupancy taxes to help pay for a $1.8 billion downtown stadium and convention center annex to replace aging Qualcomm Stadium in Mission Valley.

The next day, team chairman Dean Spanos said he wouldn't make any announcements about the team's future until after the season.

Since then, there have been numerous reports, based on anonymous sources, that the Chargers feel they have no option but to move to Los Angeles, where they would join the Rams in a stadium in Inglewood scheduled to open in 2019.

The Chargers must decide by Jan. 15 if they'll exercise their option to move to L.A. or give it one more try in San Diego.

The Chargers and their fans went through this last year, when Spanos partnered with the rival Oakland Raiders on a plan to build a stadium in the LA suburb of Carson. When the Chargers hosted the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 20, many fans felt it was the team's final game in San Diego, its home since 1961.

But a month later, NFL owners overwhelmingly rejected the Chargers-Raiders plan in favor of the Rams' Inglewood plan. However, owners gave Spanos the option to relocate. If Spanos doesn't take that option, it will then go to the Raiders, unless they commit to Las Vegas.

Quarterback Philip Rivers, a father of eight, would certainly be affected by the Chargers moving.

Still, he says the increasing talk about moving isn't a distraction.

''No. I don't think anybody's thinking about that in the fourth quarter. You don't just start thinking about it,'' Rivers said. ''Shoot, I don't give much thought to things I don't know enough about.''

Asked about hearing relocation talk for a second straight season, Rivers said: ''Again, I don't like to downplay the situation, but I think it's been exhausted to what I can add to it or say about it. If it were to happen or doesn't happen, then there'd be something. Every day, I don't look to see if there's a new report. I doubt that there's one guy in there talking about it right now, would be my guess.''

Some reports have said the Chargers could play the next two years at the StubHub! Center in Carson. That would seem a bit preposterous, since it seats only 27,000.

Rivers has been to the StubHub! Center, when his younger brother, Stephen, practiced there for an all-star game.

''It's a neat little stadium,'' Philip Rivers said.

And the Chargers playing there?

''It'll be a story if it ever gets to that,'' Rivers said.

USA Today reported Tuesday that the Chargers have been talking with the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, home of the Southern California Trojans and, temporarily, the Rams. However, the Coliseum Commission's lease with USC, which runs the stadium, allows only one NFL team to play there temporarily. The commission's next regularly scheduled meeting is Jan. 26, 11 days after the Chargers must decide whether they're moving.

The Chargers' attempt to move last year has turned off many fans. That, coupled with another down year, has dropped home attendance to an average of average of 55,488, worst in the NFL, at 70,000-seat Qualcomm Stadium.

The Chargers' last home game this season is Jan. 1 against Kansas City. They have been all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons.

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Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson

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