What Derwin James has been through the last two seasons is not easy. After a phenomenal rookie year where he was looked at as the next superstar at the safety position. He made the all-pro list twice for two different positions.
He has sustained two injuries that have only allowed him to play in five games. Five out of 32 possible games. In 2019 in a joint practice against the New Orleans Saints, he sustained a foot injury similar to edge rusher Joey Bosa and played in the final five games of the season.
In 2020, he was injured yet again in training camp; this time, it was a torn meniscus in the same knee he had the same injury in at Florida State in 2016. Wednesday was his first training camp practice in over a year.
"I felt good today," said James. "I feel like the communication we had on defense was good. It was a great start for day one, and I felt like we had a lot of guys flying around to the ball. It felt good."
As soon as the 2020 season was over, James spoke to the media to update them on his recovery. He said he felt great and that wide receiver Keenan Allen had been a big brother during the process.
"Me and Keenan been training over the offseason, as y'all can see," said James after practice on Thursday. "We've been rehabbing together, and we've been training. So, we've just been helping each other. Keenan been helping me a lot just getting back out here, and it feels good."
Allen had a great rookie and sophomore season for the Chargers. In his third year, Allen was tearing up the NFL in eight games; he had 67 catches for 725 yards and four touchdowns. The Bolts were in Baltimore when he caught a touchdown pass and lacerated his kidney. He would be out the rest of the year.
He worked hard to come back from it and be ready for the 2016 season. During practice, any cornerback he faced, Allen would get the better of them. The first game of the season was in Kansas City, Allen had six catches for 63 yards at halftime, and it seemed like no Chief could stop him. In the second half, he tore his ACL, and as the cart took him into the back, you could see the disappointment on his face with a towel over his head.
"It feels great to train with him because he's been through what I've been through," explained James. "Early in his career, he battled some adversity. Having him in my corner, just constantly talking to me and telling me, 'Be where your feet are, make the plays that come to you.' That's good having a guy like that in my corner."
During the break between minicamp and training camp on both of their social media, they would upload videos of them training together. They would both stand on a ball with one leg up to find balance while tossing a tennis ball back and forth or while outside throw a medicine ball back and forth.
"I think it was big for both of us," explained Allen. "We both fought through a lot of battles."
Allen has always been known as a player who likes to work on his craft. All offseason, he posts videos working on his route running and trying to perfect it. Allen though, noticed something about the safety going into his fourth season while working out with him.
"He works harder than me," explained Allen. "That's hard to do because I work hard, and he worked harder than me. So, I want to work out with a guy like that, and then I can pass him my knowledge. We can just feed off each other and go from there and get better. I need him on the field as much as he needs me on the field. So, if he's out there, and I'm out there, we got a good chance."
When Allen was working his way back in 2016, whenever he was asked what his goal was for the season or statistically, he always said, "play all 16 games."
"He's very motivated, more motivated to stay on the field rather than showing, and that's what I try to preach to him," said Allen. "That's why I was telling him. My goal is to play 16 games. My goal is to play the whole season, rather than having 1000 yards or 100 catches. If I am playing 16 games, I'll probably have 1000 yards and 100 catches."
James and Allen are two of the biggest talents the Chargers have on the roster. They both have had battles during training camp in the past. That will certainly continue when the players put on their pads in the next few days.
The fact that James has sustained injuries the past two training camps questions about him possibly slowing down have been raised to which he quickly slams them down.
"I play football. I'm here to play football," said James. "When you play this game slowly, it costs you, and that's when you really get hurt. So, I'm still being me. I'm still Derwin James, man."