The Chargers attempted 512 passes last season. Philip Rivers was responsible for 99.2% of them.
Geno Smith threw the other four.
That came after a preseason during which Rivers had the fewest attempts of the four quarterbacks who were on the roster.
This summer, the veteran’s involvement in exhibition play figures to decrease more, with coach Anthony Lynn already saying he’ll use his starters less in the games that don’t count.
Rivers took the idea a step further Wednesday by suggesting he’d be OK with not playing in the preseason.
“I think I’d be all right,” he said following the second practice of minicamp. “There is something about feeling that ‘game feeling’ again. But I don’t think it’s necessary at this point. If that were to be the plan, I’d be fine.”
To be clear, Lynn hasn’t said he’ll keep Rivers on the sidelines until the Chargers open the regular season on Sept. 8 against Indianapolis.
But the two have begun discussions about how much Rivers will play during an exhibition season that begins Aug. 8 in Arizona.
The plan will be designed to best ready the quarterback for the regular season while also preserving him in hopes to be more fresh later in the season.
“I mean, how many more plays does he need?” offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said. “I think it’s important to establish chemistry, but you have to be smart with how you do it.”
Entering his 16th season, Rivers, 37, hasn’t missed a regular-season start since he took over in 2006. A year ago, he appeared in two preseason games and completed 11 of 14 passes.
Whisenhunt credited that limited involvement to the fast start Rivers had in the 2018 regular season. The Chargers also cut back on the number of throws Rivers made during training camp and each week in practice.
Famous for his competitiveness, Rivers on Wednesday sounded like someone who has accepted that doing less early could yield better results in December and perhaps beyond.
“You almost need them to protect you from yourself,” he said. “I think it can be positive. I think you have to find that just-right recipe that is enough to be ready and prepared … but also be fresh and smart.”
Along with their four preseason games, the Chargers have joint practices scheduled this summer with the Rams and New Orleans Saints.
It is during those workouts that Rivers and many of the Chargers starters figure to get much of their preparation for the regular season.
“Those are about as live as it gets, but you get to wear a red jersey,” Rivers said of the hands-off tops. “To me, you’re getting some real game action when you’re going against two different teams and you’re getting all those reps.”
The Chargers likely will enter training camp with a plan regarding snap counts and participation for their veterans, then make tweaks if necessary.
Several NFL teams in recent years have begun to significantly limit their starters’ participation in preseason games.
“I think it is smart to not rip it and throw it every single day all training camp long,” Rivers said. “Ultimately, you want to have your guys healthy, your whole team healthy, come that first game against the Colts.”
Mebane back for more
The Chargers’ 2018 season ended in January with a 41-28 playoff loss at New England. Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane initially figured a lot more had ended that day.
“I thought that was it,” he said Wednesday. “I thought I was probably going to pretty much retire.”
At 34, Mebane had finished his 12th NFL season during a career that includes a Super Bowl triumph with Seattle.
When free agency opened, he said he received interest from the Rams, Seahawks and Saints but saw “really no point” in starting over with a new team.
Then discussions on a two-year deal with the Chargers intensified and he decided to return. This will be his fourth season with the team after spending nine years in Seattle.
“The Chargers asked me to come back and I was like, ‘OK, let’s do it,’ ” Mebane said. “Definitely a blessing to be in year 13 and still be able to play football at a high level.”