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Homework pays off as Rivers starts to learn Chargers' new offense

Philip Rivers really did have to do some homework before the opening practice of the first minicamp under new San Diego Chargers coach Mike McCoy.

"I was nervous today calling plays in the huddle I've been practicing at the house," Rivers said. "You get in there and call a play that you've never really called in a live situation before. I know what to do. I can do it on paper. But you have to get out there and call it. It's certainly different."

McCoy really has changed things that much since taking over for Norv Turner, who was fired after the Chargers missed the playoffs for the third straight season.

Players have been in for workouts and meetings, and McCoy wants to see who's gone home and studied the playbook.

Rivers certainly has.

"It's completely different," McCoy said Tuesday after the first practice of a three-day voluntary minicamp. " It's no longer what he's done in the past and we're moving forward with a new system for him."

New offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and his assistants have come up with an offense that is "a combination of everything," McCoy said. "We're going to find out what our football team does best over the next number of months. We've all played football or coached football for a long time. I like to say that football is thievery. You look for ideas on Mondays when you come in after games and you watch all the explosive plays and somehow you see if you can implement that into your system. We're going to take advantage of the talent we have here and see what we can do."

McCoy previously was offensive coordinator of the division rival Denver Broncos, who have won consecutive AFC West titles.

He tutored quarterbacks Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow in 2011, and had Peyton Manning behind center in 2012. McCoy retooled Denver's offense to the read-option for Tebow at midstream in 2011, and then burnished his head coaching credentials last season while blending the power formations the Broncos used in leading the league in rushing in 2011 with Tebow and some of the spread formations that Manning ran in Indianapolis.

One thing Rivers is sure of is that the offense won't be geared toward what Tebow did.

"I think it's going to be a heck of a blend," Rivers said. "You look at coach Whisenhunt's history in Pittsburgh and Arizona, doing the things he's done. You look at coach McCoy and his history in Carolina, and in Denver obviously with three different quarterbacks and different styles, and Peyton getting there and what they've done. ... If you can try to formulate a system from all that, good luck. I'm trying to figure out what we're running. It's their deal. It is a system. I'm not trying to say we're making something up. There's going to be a nice blend. There will be some resemblance of what you would think, and again, of what we already ran in years past.

"What I appreciate is that what we've done here over nine years hasn't just gone down by the wayside. It's taken into account that we've done some good things over the years."

McCoy said it's good having Rivers, who is looking to bounce back after two rough seasons. He was under siege most of last season behind a shaky line that allowed 49 sacks. Rivers committed 22 turnovers, giving him 47 in two seasons.

"He's a gym rat," the coach said. "He absolutely loves the game. He loves to be here as much as he can. He wants to learn every little detail of the offense. Even out there today, asking some great questions about the next step in what we're doing. It's like, "Hold on, slow down. It is just Day One out there. We will get to that.' But right now we're just introducing the base to everybody. It's great to come to work every day when you've got someone like that that it means so much."

Said Rivers: "I just know I like to see the big picture of everything we're doing. We won't practice all of those right now."

McCoy said he wants the Chargers to learn how to practice against each other at as close to game tempo as possible.

Among his messages was, "Hey, this is the way it's going to be. There's change, buy into it, and let's go."

In another change, the Chargers have closed the bulk of minicamp to the media.

"I know at least for today, we just wanted to make sure we could get in the huddle, out of the huddle," said general manager Tom Telesco, who replaced the fired A.J. Smith. "It's a completely new staff, a new practice, everything from where the running backs are working, where the DBs are working. We wanted to make sure everything looks clean."