Running back Curtis Brinkley and tight end Kory Sperry are two of the hardest-working and well-liked returning veterans, but they are on the bubble to make this year’s team. At both positions, general manager A.J. Smith drafted and added veteran depth with more experience.

“It is going to be tough,” Brinkley said of making this year’s roster. “But life is tough and I am willing to deal with it and try to overcome anything I need to overcome.” No man on the Chargers roster has hurdled more obstacles than Brinkley who plays with a bullet lodged close to his heart.

In 2009, Brinkley came to the Chargers as an undrafted free agent. After completing offseason workouts he returned home to Philadelphia before training camp began. He was shot in the chest as he waited in his car to pick up his sister Niveka at work. The gunman turned out to be an ex-boyfriend of Niveka who mistook Brinkley as a date.

Brinkley returned to the Chargers in 2010 and made the practice squad. Last year he carried the ball 30 times for 101 yards. He also had a critical TD and 2-point conversion (both receiving) against the Chiefs on Monday Night Football in Week 8.

The Chargers lost RB Mike Tolbert (Panthers) to free agency, but added veteran RBs Jackie Battle (Chiefs) and Ronnie Brown (Eagles). San Diego also drafted Edwin Baker (round seven, 250th overall) and Michael Hayes (undrafted, Houston) has impressed. Brinkley will have to beat out two of the four to retain the third RB spot.

Sperry faces similar odds.  He worked primarily as a blocking TE behind Antonio Gates and Randy McMichael last season.  All three have returned along with Brad Taylor (practice squad, 2011).  Dante Rosario (free agent, Denver), Ladarius Green (Round 4, 110th overall pick) and Patrick Doyle (undrafted, USD) have been added.

Coach Norv Turner said he may carry four TEs this season. Sperry, however, had only one  reception for 32 yards last season, and he knows more will be demanded of him.

“[I need] to become an all-around tight end,” Sperry said. “To be able to run routes, catch the ball and be able to be trusted blocking and not get beat. When I am out there, I have to win every battle. That is one of the things [coaches] look at. Out of how many plays are you
going to win?”

Coach Norv Turner reinforced the need to be consistent when commenting on what Brinkley and Sperry. “They have both shown they are good players,” Turner said. “Now they just have to go take advantage of every opportunity they get over the next four to five weeks.”

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