COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — With his contract extension unresolved, Derwin James remained on the sideline Monday as the Los Angeles Chargers held their first padded practice of training camp.
James did do some conditioning work on a side field where special teams and injured players do their workouts, but he is not taking part in team or individual drills. He is participating in off-field meetings and pre-practice walkthroughs as the Chargers and his agent continue to work on an extension that is expected to make him one of the highest-paid safeties in the league.
Pittsburgh’s Minkah Fitzpatrick signed a four year extension in June with a $18.25 million average per year that made him the highest-paid player at the position. The $72.98 million extension also included $36 million in guaranteed salary.
James is in the final year of his rookie contract after being the 17th overall selection in the 2018 draft. He is scheduled to earn $9.05 million this year. After missing 2020 because of a knee injury, James had 118 tackles last season along with two interceptions, two sacks and three forced fumbles.
Coach Brandon Staley said James not participating in practices hasn’t made things difficult.
“As you guys see, he hasn’t changed a bit, we haven’t changed a bit,” Staley said. “For us, and for the players, it’s normal. He’s himself, and that makes it really special for me, not making it a tough situation.”
James’ on-field absence is unlikely to be an issue unless it drags out to Aug. 17, when the Chargers begin practices with the Dallas Cowboys. With Staley not playing most of his starters during the preseason, the two days of joint workouts are the closest to facing opposing competition before the Sept. 11 regular-season opener against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Staley said the timeframe on when he would like to see James’ return is “probably the least of our concerns.”
The only thing it is affecting at this point, is James getting familiar with what is a revamped defense that could feature six new starters, including cornerback J.C. Jackson, after ranking 23rd in total defense last year.
Mark Webb, who is going into his second season, and third-round pick JT Woods have been getting extra snaps in James’ place.
“We know that he is a very important piece to this. We know that there is other business that’s happening. Hopefully, that gets taken care of soon, but in the meantime, I know that there are other guys out here working hard, and it’s allowing them to get reps,” defensive coordinator Renaldo Hill said of James. “He’s staying mentally locked in when he’s not in there. He’s been a coach on the sideline. He’s been upbeat and positive with all of the guys, so we like how that’s going as well, too.”
NOTES: LB Drue Tranquill is dealing with a groin injury that isn’t expected to keep him out for a significant period of time. … The Chargers signed TE Sage Surratt, who played for the USFL’s Birmingham Stallions during the spring.
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