He has seen the throws — the interceptions against Denver and Kansas City, and the deep strikes to Travis Benjamin and Tyrell Williams — and instead of seeing signs of age, he has been reaffirmed by the tape.
“There’ve been quite a few plays where I’ve been, ‘Shoot, you’re still hanging in there alright,’ ” Rivers said.
When the Chargers travel to New York to play the Giants on Sunday, fans might get their final chance to see two veterans, intertwined for their careers, who are still hanging in there.
Rivers and Giants quarterback Eli Manning were traded for one another during the 2004 draft after Manning refused to play for the Chargers. Rivers and the Chargers are 2-0 against Manning and the Giants.
Rivers said he enjoys the link with Manning, who has won two Super Bowls with the Giants.
“That’s just what you’d expect with the trade and how it all went down and we’re both still on the same teams. … We’ve both been out there, shoot, almost a combined 400 games in a row. You understand that. … It’s something you appreciate. I’m looking forward to it. You’re not playing the other quarterback but this could be the last time we’re both out there playing each other,” Rivers said.
This season, each has thrown six touchdowns and four interceptions and are winless. But, remarkably, they are still on the field.
Rivers and Manning and are the NFL’s leaders in consecutive starts at quarterback among active players. Manning has started every game since winning the job Nov. 21, 2004. Rivers, who sat for two seasons after being drafted, has made every start since Sept. 11, 2006.
As Rivers spoke to the media Wednesday, a purple-green bruise resided on his left arm, a reminder of how physical football can be. But Rivers said he always has been the kind of person to shake everything off and just play.
“Everyone wants to say it’s because I’m tougher than guys, and I don’t think that’s true. There’s an element of that, though, just from growing up,” Rivers said. “My dad used to always say, ‘Don’t lay out there on the field. If you have any kind of injury get off unless you can’t walk.’ Those were the kinds of things I heard early on.
“You want the guys to know you’ll do anything to be out there.”
And while he’s out there, Rivers wants to be the player he has always been. And, so far, that’s what he has seen from himself.
“I don’t know that there’s, ‘Oh, I could’ve made that throw five years ago but I can’t make it now.’ I don’t think I’ve hit that point yet,” Rivers said.
Quarterbacks, perhaps, have never aged better in the NFL. Of the six passers with the most completions in the first week, Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers is the youngest at nearly 34.
Rivers, Manning and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, who was the third quarterback selected in the 2004 draft, are three of the NFL’s top 11 in all-time passing yards, with Rivers needing 64 to move past Fran Tarkenton for 10th.
“I think in one way you’re always kind of proud of your draft class, and take some pride in your draft class, especially the other quarterbacks,” Manning said. “So I think after a few years you kind of start seeing that Ben’s doing well and Philip’s doing well, doing some good things, so I think you kind of root for those to do well in a sense because you kind of hope that your draft class will be talked about as a special one.”
As the group grows older, the mistakes will look worse, and phrases such as “washed up” will start to orbit around the class of 2004. But Rivers is sure that’s not where he is now.
“I don’t look forward to that day. I think it’ll gradually start showing up,” he said. “I imagine that you just go, ‘Golly, I’ve thrown that in route a million times and I can’t … what happened?’ I think that’s how it’ll show up. Thankfully, other than a handful of poor decisions and our record, nothing’s showing up yet.”
The Chargers injury list picked up some important names, with starting linebacker and the NFL’s No. 2 leading tackler, Jatavis Brown, unable to practice because of an ankle injury. Brown said this week that he was confident he would be able to play Sunday. … Starting right tackle Joe Barksdale (foot) and running back Branden Oliver (hamstring) also didn’t practice. …Guard Matt Slauson was a limited participant because of an injured triceps he suffered Sunday. … First-round pick Mike Williams was a limited participant and coach Anthony Lynn made it sound as if Williams wouldn’t make his season debut against the Giants.