SAN DIEGO (AP) — Politics will have to wait for Jon Runyan.
For the time being, he's still an NFL offensive lineman.
Runyan practiced with the San Diego Chargers on Wednesday for the first time since signing a free-agent contract. He hasn't played since the end of last season with the Philadelphia Eagles, who didn't re-sign him after he had microfracture surgery on his right knee.
Earlier this month, Runyan said he's considering running for Congress in New Jersey.
Runyan was signed after right tackle Jeromey Clary damaged a ligament in his left ankle and was placed on injured reserve, ending his season.
"It was unfortunate it took an injury to get me here, but I bring a lot of experience here," said Runyan, who turns 36 on Friday. "Right now my job is to get in the playbook and figure all that out so I can actually contribute on the field here."
Coach Norv Turner said he'll wait to see if Runyan gets up to speed before deciding if he'll play in Sunday's home game against Kansas City.
"The knee's fine. I've just got to get used to the language," said Runyan, who hasn't had to learn a new offense since he jumped from Tennessee to Philadelphia after the 1999 season. "It's a foreign language."
The Chargers (7-3) have won five straight games to wrest control of the AFC West from slumping Denver.
"It's the perfect time to do it," Runyan said about joining the Chargers. "It's a great opportunity. Truthfully, it's the only one I've had. It happened to work out."
Two weeks ago, before the Chargers played host to the Eagles, star outside linebacker Shawne Merriman recalled how his first career sack came against Donovan McNabb, and how Runyan "was one of the dirtiest players I've ever been against in my whole entire life. He was real good at being dirty. My sack didn't come from that side."
Runyan was nonplussed was told about Merriman's comments.
"That's the way the game's supposed to be played," he said. "I think they've tried to change that over the years. It's turned into a basketball game out there. That's just part of how I play the game, that's how I was brought up on it and that's how I intend to play it."
For the time being, Brandyn Dombrowski will start at right tackle.
Runyan will put on hold his plans to challenge Democratic Rep. John Adler in New Jersey's 3rd District. His new job is to learn San Diego's playbook.
Asked about his passion for football, Runyan said, "It's mostly stupidity. You've done this for so long, what else are you going to do? That's kind of why politics has kind of come in. It's something that I'm interested in and something I have a lot to learn about, but it would definitely take the beating off my body."
After signing with the Chargers on Tuesday, Runyan said in a statement that he told Republican officials of his plans to challenge Adler.
"I look forward to a successful end to my career on the field," Runyan said in the statement, "and a spirited campaign against Congressman Adler in 2010."
Asked Wednesday why he thinks he can make a difference in Congress, he told The Associated Press: "Something has to be changed. I mean, you talk about career politicians and the way this country is going, you've got to try something different because it's not working."
What does he think about the job President Barack Obama has done?
"I'm staying away from that one," he said.
General manager A.J. Smith didn't return a call seeking comment about Runyan.
Runyan made 213 straight starts from 1997-2008, 192 in the regular season and 21 in the postseason.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.