SAN DIEGO (AP) — While predecessor LaDainian Tomlinson usually skipped exhibition games in order to be fresh for the regular season, Ryan Mathews is not following the same philosophy with the San Diego Chargers.
The rookie running back, who was the No. 12 overall draft pick, has been pushed around a bit during practice and played in Saturday's exhibition win against Chicago.
Mathews had nine carries for 50 yards and two catches for 11 yards. Mathews will be treated like most first teamers, with similar playing time on Saturday against Dallas. He'll get an increased workload against New Orleans on Aug. 27 and a tapered amount in the exhibition finale at San Francisco on Sept. 2.
"He got carries and a couple passes the other night and I'd expect him to stay in that area this week," coach Norv Turner said Monday. "In the third game I'd like to see him get 20 carries and in the last game, as we do with most first teamers, we'll cut that way back to help him stay fresh for the regular season."
Mathews doesn't mind taking a few shots on his way toward the regular season.
"It helps me get ready for game action," Mathews said. "I'm not going to run through a hole in a game without being touched, so I don't want to do that in practice. They aren't tackling me out here, but defenders are letting me know they're there.
"In terms of touches, I'll take as many as he'll give me," Mathews said of Turner. "He knows I need to get ready for the season, and I trust that he'll give me enough to get comfortable out there."
Turner likes the look of his team after one game.
"We're going to be an exciting team to watch," Turner said. "If we were talking about buying season tickets this year, I know what my family's answer would be. It's going to be fun in all three phases. We're going to be an exciting team. You call them like you see them, and I know I wouldn't miss it."
On Monday afternoon, Shawne Merriman went through his first practice since signing a $3,269,000, one-year contract tendered him as a restricted free agent. He stepped right in on the first team and participated in the entire practice.
He didn't make much of a holdout that kept him away for two weeks of training camp.
"There are definitely things I need to catch up on, but overall it felt good to be out there," Merriman said. "I'm in good shape, so endurance isn't an issue. It's just a matter of getting on the same page with my teammates. It's great to be back."
Notes: LT Tra Thomas practiced for the first time since having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, but was limited to individual drills. ... SS Darrell Stuckey returned from a 12-day layoff. He participated in a few team drills, but Steve Gregory remained with the first team's base defense.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.