Below are three takeaways from Chargers Special Teams Coordinator Ryan Ficken and outside linebacker Tuli Tuipulotu's media availability on Monday:
The Chargers special teams unit is fired up to kick off the regular season with kicker Cameron Dicker leading the position.
After a competitive training camp battle between Dicker and Dustin Hopkins, the team moved forward with Dicker after trading Hopkins to Cleveland last Monday.
Chargers Special Teams Coordinator Ryan Ficken spoke Monday for the first time since the decision, pointing out the deciding factors in the kicker competition ahead of the regular season.
"Dustin, first and foremost, is an elite kicker," Ficken said during his media session. "Either way, however it shook out, we were going to lose a top kicker.
"We felt, as an organization, that the body of work with what Cameron has done — nothing that Hopkins hasn't done — more of what Dicker has done, our faith and belief in him and his consistency with it," Ficken added. "Moving forward, we thought he was the right guy for the opportunity."
The team is excited about the future with Dicker — and rightfully so.
The second-year kicker had quite a rookie season, hitting 19 of 20 field goals overall during his time with the Bolts, including a pair of game-winners that would prove big in the Bolts postseason berth.
And Dicker continued the positive momentum from last season into this offseason, making 62 of 68 kicks during camp practices prior to the season and converting four field goals and five extra points in preseason games.
There's a lot of things to like about how Dicker how performed in the powder blue, but Ficken noted some of the other characteristics that has gotten him success early in his NFL career — and the excitement surrounding Year 2 as a member of the Bolts.
"It's his approach to the game. He plays like he's a veteran kicker," Ficken said. "Nothing sways him at all. He's confident in everything he does. He's consistent in his approach. You know what you're going to get out of him.
"We're really excited that he's still here as a Charger," Ficken added. "Even last year there were opportunities where other teams were pushing for him, we're fortunate that he's here. It was a great competition between those two guys, I thought they made each other better as they competed against each other."
Outside linebacker Tuli Tuipulotu's pro debut is just six days away, but the nerves haven't quite kicked in yet.
"I wouldn't say anything right now," said Tuipulotu, who did not speak at the podium but chatted with reporters in the locker room. "I think the excitement will come closer to the game.
"I think probably just worried about preparation and getting ready for the game," Tuipulotu added.
The 2023 second-rounder kicked off his first regular-season game week Monday as he now focuses on the task at hand against the Dolphins.
And for as much as Week 1 will be his first regular season NFL game, the rookie Tuipulotu is approaching it as if it's just another game — even if it is a big milestone in his career.
"I just feel like it's another game," Tuipulotu said. "I know it's my first NFL game, but I just want to treat it like any other game.
"I know it's not going to be like that, just try to trick my mind into that," Tuipulotu added.
Tuipulotu had a strong first offseason with the Bolts, flashing throughout training camp and even in his limited action during the preseason. The rookie outside linebacker played a total 26 snaps in two preseason games and made his presence felt.
According to Pro Football Focus, Tuipulotu finished with two quarterback hurries and one quarterback hit in just 14 pass rushing snaps. He also showed what he can do in the run game by recording a tackle for loss against the Saints during the Bolts second preseason game.
Tuipulotu credited his coaches for having him prepared ahead of Sunday, as he's hoping to contribute in whatever way he's needed.
"I, for sure, feel prepared," Tuipulotu said. "We had good OTAs, good training camp.
"I feel like the team, [Outside Linebackers] Coach Giff [Smith}, [Chargers Head] Coach [Brandon] Staley been preparing me for whatever I got to do on Sunday," Tuipulotu added. "I'm just ready to go out there and do whatever they want me to do."
Another year, another new rule to watch out for in 2023.
The NFL rolled out a new rule on kickoffs this offseason that stipulates the return team will get the ball at their own 25-yard line if they call a fair catch (and secure the kickoff) anywhere behind that mark.
The Chargers didn't call for any fair catches in that scenario in the preseason, but Ficken gave his thoughts on it Monday afternoon.
"You didn't see much of it," Ficken said. "Maybe situationally, depends on the philosophy that some of these teams are going to have, depending on the situation of the game, the returner.
"Yeah, you might see it, but I just know what our philosophy is and what we're going to do," Ficken added. "It's tough to figure out what the rest of the teams might do, but we have to prepare for teams to fair catch it, to kick different types of kicks when they're on kickoff and we have to be able to recover all of those types of kicks, as well."
Ficken was then asked why a team just wouldn't take the fair catch and get it at the 25, which is solid starting field position.
But he responded with a reminder that a muffed fair catch on the kickoff is just like one on a punt.
So if you muff the kickoff fair catch and recover it at your own 7-yard line, that's where you start. And if the kicking team recovers that muffed fair catch, your offense won't even see the field.
"If you we're 100 percent going to be able to catch the ball, obviously, you have the one rule where you do muff it, the ball is going to be right there at the spot. You have to prepare for that," Ficken said. "It just depends on the situation. If you want to save time on the clock, you may fair catch it. Every situation is going to be dependent upon what we do moving forward on that."
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