SAN DIEGO (AP) - Like most everyone else in the NFL at this time of year, the San Diego Chargers think they can get to the Super Bowl.
After watching Seattle rout Denver for the NFL championship nearly three months ago, they know how tough that road will be.
Not only will the Chargers have to go through the division rival and defending AFC champion Broncos, but they play the four NFC West teams in the regular season and three of them in the exhibition season.
“People say that’s the best division in football right now. I cherish the opportunity,” inside linebacker Donald Butler said Tuesday, when the Chargers began their offseason workouts.
Having ended a three-year playoff drought, the Chargers are more optimistic than a year ago at this time.
“Day One, everybody says Super Bowl,” Butler said. “We know we can get there. We’re a little more confident and obviously a little more excited.”
The Chargers had to stage a late-season rally, as well as get help from collapses by Miami and Baltimore, to reach the playoffs last season.
This year, they’ll definitely have to earn a postseason berth.
The Chargers draw the NFC West. They’ll host Seattle and St. Louis during the regular season, and visit San Francisco and Arizona. Dates and times will be announced Wednesday.
In the exhibition season, the Chargers will host Arizona and visit Seattle and San Francisco.
Butler said the Seahawks “brought a physicality and a mentality that was unmatched by Denver” in the Super Bowl. “I definitely believe that we can get there and that we will get there.
“We play the NFC West this year, both in preseason and regular season, so if our defense is not willing and ready to match their defense’s physicality, we’re going to be in some trouble.”
The Chargers were eliminated from the playoffs in the divisional round by the Broncos.
“We’ve obviously got to get better,” safety Eric Weddle said. “We were three games short of a world championship. Anything short of that, we didn’t reach our goal. So it’s unacceptable in our eyes. But we made strides. We got back in the playoffs, which not only was a huge plus for the organization, but for players who’ve been here for a long time who’ve worked extremely hard. To finally get back to that position was really exciting, and to have those games mean something.”
Workouts were closed to the media. Weddle said outside linebacker Dwight Freeney, who missed most of last season with a quadriceps injury, was at Tuesday’s workout and looking good, as was inside linebacker Manti Te’o, who played better as the season progressed.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Weddle said. “These next few weeks and months will be pivotal to the growth of the team.”
Also at the workout was wide receiver Malcom Floyd, who sustained a season-ending neck injury in the second game.
Floyd “looks good,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “He has that smile that he always does. That was a tough injury.”
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