COSTA MESA — Matt Slauson jumped early.
The offensive lineman is a seasoned veteran, one who entered this month having made 104 career appearances, including three in the playoffs. He had done so wearing three different uniforms, in more than two dozen NFL stadiums.
And yet, on what would have been the Chargers’ first offensive snap of the 2017 season, officials called Slauson for a false start. Yes, Denver fans — you were loud.
“The only place I’ve played louder than that is Seattle,” Slauson said, “and Monday night was very close to that.”
Philip Rivers said as much after the Chargers’ 24-21 loss to the Broncos. The quarterback had played in the stadium now known as Sports Authority Field at Mile High a dozen times before, but still, the night stood out: “This was as loud as I can remember this place.”
So perhaps it’s understandable why the Chargers looked so uneven in their regular-season debut as a Los Angeles-based NFL franchise. They averaged 3.6 yards per play through the first three quarters in part because players couldn’t hear each other.
The rumble in Denver’s stands had the Chargers running deep into the play clock. When Rivers tried to audible or kill a play at the line of scrimmage, Slauson had to turn around and figure out when to initiate the silent count.
“Just like you and I are talking, right now, it’s easy,” offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said. “But when you throw that noise into it, all of a sudden you have to yell to get that communicated, you have to process it, then you have to get down in a stance and be able to see the ball snap, and then you have to face Von Miller.
“There’s a lot of things in there that make it hard. It’s something you can try to simulate in practice, but you can’t do it until you get into that game.”
More hurdles lie ahead. The Chargers are about to start a three-game homestand, but in Week 6, they’ll visit Oakland and its infamous “Black Hole.” In mid-December, they’ll see Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium, which in 2014 set a Guinness World Record for loudest crowd roar. They might even encounter a hostile audience at StubHub Center — their home stadium filling up with Raiders fans for the regular-season finale.
Something that could help the Chargers is chemistry along the offensive line — where years of experience can foster unspoken communication. But that’s not a luxury the team currently has: left tackle Russell Okung signed in March; center Spencer Pulley is a first-year starter; Slauson moved from center to left guard.
“It’s a constantly evolving process,” Slauson said. “You’re building that all year long, starting back in the spring. It’s going to continue to grow and gel as the year goes on. I can’t definitely say how many weeks it’s going to take, but it’s definitely a process the whole way through.”
Two Chargers rookies were held out of Wednesday’s practice: receiver Mike Williams, out since May with a herniated disk in his lower back; safety Rayshawn Jenkins, who sustained a concussion in Monday’s loss to the Broncos.
Four other players were listed on the injury report, but all of them were full participants in practice: defensive end Jerry Attaochu (hamstring), receiver Dontrelle Inman (groin), tight end Sean McGrath (knee), and offensive lineman Kenny Wiggins (ankle). Wiggins played snap at right guard on Monday, but the other three were left inactive in Denver.
Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said Inman and Wiggins are both day-to-day in their recovery.
The Chargers also waived seventh-round pick Isaac Rochell to make room on the 53-man roster for defensve end Tenny Palepoi, who recently finished serving a four-game suspension for a PED violation last season.
The team re-signed cornerback Jeff Richards, waived on Monday, back on practice squad.
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