Wednesday morning was the first opportunity that the Chargers were able to meet in person officially. It had been a long time coming. The fans would celebrate him on social media after his performances. He gave them "victory briskets."
It was the first day that fans got to watch quarterback Justin Herbert in person. Last training camp, there were no fans allowed, so fans had to watch from afar, but they slowly started to pull a Terrell Owens and, with tears in their eyes, say, "that's my quarterback."
A lot has changed for Herbert since last season.
"I think we've grown a lot in the past year, and you've played a lot of football, and you've gone through two offenses, and you're learning a new system," explained Herbert. "You got the same guys out there, and we've had a lot of fun working together. We put in a lot of hard work, and it's just good to be back out here today, seeing everyone and getting to play a little football."
Last season, he was backing up Tyrod Taylor and had to learn how to be an NFL quarterback. Now, he is learning offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi's offense and is QB1.
During minicamp, Herbert said that he would sit down and go through the offense until he understood it. He feels like he has a good grasp on it.
"You can always be better, though, and I think that's the challenge about playing quarterback is realizing that you've got so much more room to grow," said Herbert. "Especially these next couple of weeks are important for us."
After showing off the connection with receiver Keenan Allen and making some nice throws to Tyron Johnson and tight end Jared Cook, practice was over, by design, in 75 minutes. Herbert was scheduled to meet with the media.
The quarterbacks stood on the second field discussing things with quarterbacks coach Shane Day while the running backs and offensive line signed footballs and threw them into the crowd. The fans who once cheered for Drew Brees and Philip Rivers were now cheering on the next generation. They hollered for their quarterback to sign autographs.
"It's good to have fans back and be able to say thank you and have their support in as weird as a year it's been to have them show up and to watch football and be a part of it. I think it's a pretty cool moment," said Herbert.
The player who wears number 10 took off running and began to sign autographs from fans at a distance. Fans threw gear close to the quarterback, and he would pick it up and sign it. He knew he was needed for media but waited a little bit and kept interacting with fans.
He proceeded to walk down the line, fist-bumping fans until he got to where the media was standing waiting for him.
"I just wanted to say thank you for them coming out, and I'll make sure to wash my hands and keep my distance next time, so I apologize," said the second-year quarterback.
Herbert was unaware he couldn't be close to the fans, but off his face, it was evident it meant a lot to him.
Fans got to see their quarterback perform against the defense numerous times on Wednesday. There was a pass he threw to Jalen Guyton, and cornerback Michael Davis was able to batt the ball down. There are going to be some battles during training camp.
This is only the beginning.
"It's a special opportunity for us to go against them because they're going to make us better," said Herbert. "Hopefully, we'll be able to do the same thing for them, and just to be able to see their fronts and all their different personnel and what they're able to do, it'll make us better."
It threw Herbert off last season when defenses disguised their formation. The Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, and New England Patriots did that to him numerous times. He has learned from that because of his studying and help from head coach Brandon Staley.
The receivers and running backs positions are somewhat the same, but the starting tight end and the offensive line are almost entirely different. He is getting used to the offensive line blocks, but he is also finding out what his new tight end likes from his quarterback.
"Jared Cook and I had a great conversation about stick routes today and what he was thinking," explained Herbert. "He's been around for 13 years. This is his 13th camp. So, I've got a bunch to learn from him, and just being able to talk with him talking about the routes, I think it helps us all."
The Chargers will face many top quarterbacks, but one in his division is always in the news for some new way he found to throw the football. Recently, he was at a golf tournament in Tahoe, CA called the "American Century Championship."
Mahomes was being heckled by a fan, who said the Super Bowl winning quarterback had to watch out for the Chargers quarterback. He answered, "I'll see it when I believe it." A couple of days later, Mahomes said he had nothing but respect for the young quarterback.
Herbert was asked about the incident.
"I didn't," said a laughing Herbert. "But I think it's pretty cool that Patrick Mahomes knows who I am. I'm cool with it, and I've got great respect for what he's been able to do, and I've watched him so much."