SAN DIEGO — Wiping sweat off his forehead with a towel, Philip Rivers fittingly was one of the last players to wander off the practice field at Chargers Park.
After practice, Rivers competed in a throwing competition with the rest of quarterbacks. And of course, the 13-year veteran who spent his entire career in San Diego won the final competition on the field in his last time practicing at the facility.
Six months after the team’s announcement of plans to relocate to Los Angeles, the Chargers held their final practice at the facility on Murphy Canyon Road, officially signaling the transition to a new facility two hours north in Costa Mesa, California.
“I had sweaty hands and I was nervous before practice, and I was like, ‘What is wrong with me?’” Rivers said. “Going into the last minicamp in Year 14 and here I am nervous before going out there is a little ridiculous. But it was because of the fact that I’m not walking out that door with a helmet in my hand again.”
All but one of Rivers’ eight children was born in San Diego. Rivers reminisced about his young kids riding their bikes around the track at the facility on off days, drawing pictures on the whiteboard in the quarterback room and playing catch with them out on the field after training camp practices.
“It’s just not my memories professionally and as a teammate in this organization, but my children have memories of us coming up here,” he said. “It’s definitely a special place. It’s been special, but all things, shoot, come to an end at some point.”
Along with Rivers, tight end Antonio Gates is the most-tenured player on the team, entering his 15th season with the Chargers. The future Hall of Fame tight end said he embraced his time spent on the practice field over the years and the memories created with teammates like LaDainian Tomlinson and Drew Brees, but looks forward to the challenges ahead in Los Angeles.
“It’s a bittersweet moment because obviously the memories are still here, and they will forever be here for myself and guys that have been around,” Gates said. “It’s just one of those things where we need to take time out to say thank you to San Diego, and the fans that have been here to support us.
“But at the same time I’m excited to move to L.A. I’m excited about the new change. And hopefully they’ll welcome us with open arms and embrace us. And we can win some games, and win a championship.”
Former players who stopped by for the occasion included Hall of Famer receiver James Lofton, former longtime center Nick Hardwick and former defensive lineman Jacques Cesaire.
Special teams standout Darrell Stuckey said the team’s legacy will remain in San Diego, and the Chargers are just creating a new one north in Los Angeles.
“At the end of the day, yes, our branches are expanding a little bit — 88 miles if you want to be exact,” Stuckey said. “But our roots will still run deep here. We’re not abandoning anything historically that happened here. We’re just carrying that strength with us, because no tree is stronger than its roots.”