Norv Turner, Vincent Jackson Defend Nate Kaeding and Chargers' Season
"That was on all of us," Jackson said of the Chargers' 17-14 AFC divisional meltdown at the hands of the underdog New York Jets.
Said Turner, "Nate is a competitor, and Nate is really a great player. I don't know see that it should be any different for Nate than it should be for me or the rest of the guys on our football team."Jackson, a first-time Pro Bowler and a reserve at wide receiver for the AFC squad, joined Turner and the Chargers' coaching staff at the final team practices Saturday at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. But Kaeding, a Pro Bowl and an All-Pro selection, saw his trip to the NFL's annual all-star game interrupted, much like San Diego's playoff hopes.
Kaeding joined the dozen or so players who have withdrawn from the Pro Bowl citing injury when he left Thursday's practice with what he believed was a slight quad muscle and groin pull. Further tests revealed a possible groin tear, and Kaeding reluctantly elected to skip the remaining festivities as well as Sunday night's game.
"I had mentally structured it in my mind, I was going to take this week seriously," Kaeding told the San Diego Union-Tribune." I was looking forward to getting out there (in the Pro Bowl) and getting to kick and going through that, rather than six months from now."
The experience, no doubt, would have been therapeutic for Kaeding, who has experienced a rough few weeks.
Kaeding, the most accurate regular-season kicker in NFL history (87.2 percent success rate), missed three field goals in the Chargers' Jan. 17 playoff loss to the upstart Jets, going wide left, right and short on attempts that were within his range.
Prior to that game, Kaeding had been spot-on with 20 consecutive field goal tries, and was enjoying a streak of 69 consecutive field goals from 40 yards or closer.
But that disastrous postseason performance made Kaeding Public Enemy No. 1 in San Diego, where frustrated Chargers fans are still fuming about those misses -- and the team-wide belly flop -- that ended the season for the AFC's No. 2-seeded squad far sooner than anyone expected.
"I haven't talked to him; I've talked to our trainers and he seems to be doing much better," Jackson said of Kaeding. "I guess it's his quad and his groin area, and that's why he had to leave (the Pro Bowl). I feel for him and what he's going through."
After winning 11 consecutive games in the regular season, the Chargers played one of their worst games in recent memory in their opening playoff contest of 2009, failing to protect the football (quarterback Philip Rivers tossed interceptions on two consecutive passes) and committing 10 penalties for 87 yards.
Among those penalized: Jackson, who was flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct call after he kicked a challenge flag thrown by Jets coach Rex Ryan. Ryan had challenged a 37-yard catch by Jackson, but the play was upheld.
"Watching those guys on (Super Bowl) Sunday is going to be tough; we're still kind of bitter about it," said Jackson, who led the Chargers with 1,167 yards and nine touchdown receptions, averaging 17.2 yards per catch. "We did have a good year. To win 11 games in a row in the NFL is pretty commendable."
Turner said this latest Chargers' playoff loss will only serve to strengthen everyone's resolve to make it to the Super Bowl in 2010.
"We're going to come back from this," said Turner, who is head coach of the AFC Pro Bowl squad. "We're going to have a chip on our shoulder and something to prove.
"The disappointing thing is, when you lose like that the way we did, is you've got to wait another year to get that opportunity. But Nate will be ready when that opportunity comes. We all will."