SAN JOSE, Calif. – There's something to be said about playing at home.
"Playing at home for one is an advantage as we've shown. We win at home," San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Riverstold reporters during a telephone conference call this week.
"Our fans and our stadium, the way we play there, we obviously win. Hopefully that will be the case Sunday."
Rivers and his Chargers will host the New England Patriots, who've proven that they can beat San Diego either at Qualcomm Stadium or at Gillette Stadium. And it doesn't matter if it's the regular season or the playoffs.
"They're excited," safety Rodney Harrisonnoted. "They're going to be home for Sunday Night Football. So, we better be ready."
"Certainly we feel that there is a home field advantage at home and we're certainly glad they're coming to our place as opposed to us having to go back out there," Rivers added.
He went on to point out that whoever wins this game could end up hosting the loser later this season in a potential playoff match-up.
"This one, although it is early in the regular season, has a lot at stake for us and for both teams I think. As we've seen, this AFC is going to be tough. There is going to be a lot of teams down the stretch and we want to be one of them. This game is going to have a big impact on that."
Harrison said Thursday that he's impressed with Rivers' maturity as a quarterback and with San Diego's balanced attack on offense.
"Very unpredictable. They can run the ball, they can pass the ball. Best tight end in the league in [Antonio] Gates. Philip, he's playing with a lot of confidence. Their [2-3] record is very deceiving. This same team started out 1-3 last year and ended up in the AFC Championship. Can't take them lightly."
There were many questions surrounding the Patriots secondary coming into this season, with injuries, the loss of some key veterans, and the addition of several new and younger players contributing to the uncertainty. Harrison acknowledged that some of those questions may remain unanswered, but that the unit as a whole is making progress.
"It goes one week to the next," he observed. "I mean, against the Dolphins, we were the worst secondary in the league. All of a sudden, people want to say we had three interceptions [against San Francisco] and that we're gelling back all of a sudden. So, it's a work in progress. Each and every individual guy has to do his job and do it consistently and go out there and make plays. When you make plays, it takes care of everything else."
Rivers, meantime, said he still respects the talent he'll face on Sunday night.
"Yeah, it's a good group," he remarked about the Pats defense. "They've still got some of their core guys there. They've had a few changes but all in all it's the same scheme and they play it well. As you've seen, they had one hiccup two weeks ago [against Miami]. Other than that, they have been winning games, which is what they're used to doing there. So it will be as tough as it always is against those guys."
For Harrison, a former Charger, although it's a road game, it will feel like he's playing at home.
"I spent nine years there. Had some good times, had some not-so-great times. It's where I started my career. Very excited about going back. Got a lot of friends, family going to the game. Hopefully, we can just top it off with a win."
This morning, San Jose State head football coach Dick Tomeypaid a visit to the media enclosure just outside the practice fields at Spartan Stadium.
He explained how it came to pass that the Patriots settled on his facilities for their training this week.
"They asked us if they could, and … we had the [Dallas] Cowboys here several years ago, a couple of times. It works out because we practice in the morning. I said [to the Patriots], 'If you stay out of our way, we'll stay out of yours. Because we've got a lot of work to do, you've got a lot of work to do. And we both understand that, so, it works fine. We're out of here by 10:30."
Tomey was also asked if there was anything he might learn from having an NFL team sharing his program's facilities.
"Probably nothing, because we haven't got time. We don't have time to watch them. That's off-season stuff.
"I have great respect for Coach Belichick," he added, "but my ulterior motive is to get Tedy Bruschihere so we can get a chance to spend some time together."
Tomey, who used to coach at the University of Arizona when Bruschi played there, is still fond of his former player. Bruschi played defensive end for Tomey's Wildcats, eventually setting the NCAA record for sacks in a career.
"I think Tedy's just an exception," Tomey marveled. "I said this to someone the other day … we who coached him at Arizona can take no credit for Tedy Bruschi. The Patriots can take no credit for Tedy Bruschi. He came that way. He came to us that way. His parents, his high school coaches, I don't know who [made him that way], but he's been that kind of person that's rare, that makes everybody around him better, that's humble, that represents everything that I think is good about athletics.
"He's not interested in negotiating a new contract or necessarily playing with another team. He wants to play with the same team and have his kids grow up in the same place. I have great, high regard for him as a person, first of all, but obviously, he's a great player. He's a tremendous person all the way around. He's a great example."
Tomey also confirmed that Bruschi has agreed to speak to the San Jose State Spartans players on Friday, in advance of their Saturday homecoming game against Utah State.
Joking about Junior
Harrison was asked by a reporter if he planned on catching up with former Chargers and Patriots teammate Junior Seau, a San Diego area native, when the team travels there this weekend.
"You never know," Harrison replied with a wry smile. "Junior might come over, he may not. I've called him a couple of times, so, Junior, if you're listening, call me. Hopefully, we can go over to his restaurant and sneak some free food."
His reply drew a laugh from the assembled media. Harrison then ended with a plug for the linebacker's restaurant, appropriately names Seau's.
"You guys need to go over there and eat some sushi. It's pretty good."
In addition to the three players who were not on the practice field Wednesday (LB Eric Alexander, RB LaMont Jordan, and WR Kelley Washington), TE David Thomaswas among the missing on Thursday. He was listed as having the flu on the team's participation report.
Also missing portions of practice were kicker Stephen Gostkowski(right thigh), running back Laurence Maroney(shoulder), and cornerback Lewis Sanders(hamstring).
Ray Ventrone, the former defensive back-turned-wide receiver, was working with the running backs at the start of Thursday's practice.