The main headline story of the offseason league-wide has been the lockout and overall uncertainty in terms of just what the rules will be when teams are finally back to business as usual. For the San Diego Chargers however, an unfortunate trend has become a part of the time away from the field for several familiar names on the team’s roster.
Add linebacker Antwan Applewhite’s name to the list of players soon to be ex-Chargers after he was arrested on suspicion of DUI early Friday morning. Following the incident the team released the expected press release with a quote from General Manager A.J. Smith that said: "It’s disappointing to hear about the issue involving Antwan Applewhite. We’ll continue to monitor the situation and let the legal process run its course.”
What Smith neglected to add to that particular piece of rhetoric is that this will in all likelihood bring an end to Applewhite’s time as a Bolt.
Although he never became a household name with the team by any stretch of the imagination, Applewhite had certainly come into his own since being signed to the practice squad back in 2007. He is an alum of nearby San Diego State and quickly found a home on the team’s regular special teams unit as an effort player.
That spot on special teams quickly blossomed into some reps at outside linebacker rushing the passer even earning Applewhite the starting job for 13 games in 2010 while the oft-injured Larry English was sidelined. He did manage to accumulate 3 sacks in English’s absence last season, but his once infectious fire on special teams had vanished and actually became a detriment to the team. This may not clearly be the end of the line for Applewhite with the Chargers, but it certainly makes that a good possibility despite his second round tender as a restricted free agent pending the new CBA.
Another of the unruly Chargers this offseason, Legedu Naanee, did not time his run-in with the law nearly as well being arrested for public intoxication prior to the deadline for designating restricted free agents. He was not given an offer at all and had Applewhite’s mishap occurred on a similar timeline chances are that he wouldn’t have either.
Just like any business decision, GM A.J. Smith must do a cost-benefit analysis on each of his players to try and justify keeping them on the roster while weighing any possible legal issues. His track record is quite stern as a no nonsense GM showing the door to linebackers Anthony Waters and Tim Dobbins as well as safety Kevin Ellison following off-field issues in the past.
That cost-benefit analysis is what has ultimately kept wide receiver Vincent Jackson with the team for the past few seasons despite his tenuous status in the eyes of the league. Although he is basically one more slip up away from a year long suspension, there is plenty of value in a field stretching 6’5” 240lbs. touchdown machine in the prime of his career. The same simply cannot be said about a backup outside linebacker seeing the bulk of his snaps on special teams.
Smith’s ability to differentiate between players worth the risk and those who do not merit the benefit of the doubt cannot be questioned to this point as he has managed to avoid many highly combustible situations. Still that hasn’t kept the critics from questioning him and his brash style as evidenced by his quote a few weeks back in the San Diego Union Tribune.
Just for a refresher, when asked about being on the hot seat, Smith responded to that criticism with: “I hear it’s hot, but in my own way. I take care of the hot seat I’m in. I have a small fan under my desk that cools down my seat and makes it tolerable so I can work. I have a refrigerator right here, and if it gets really hot, I leave the door open for about 20 minutes. Between the two of ’em, I get by.”
It’s clear that A.J. Smith is going to run the Chargers his way and is willing to bear the consequences of what that ultimately yields for the club. With a growing reputation for questionable characters on the roster dating all the way back to linebacker Steve Foley’s shooting incident as well as the late Terrence Kiel’s felony drug charges, Smith has been adamant about finding good character players and building a team with the proper foundations in mind. It remains to be seen whether or not that letter of the law philosophy will produce a championship for the team and its fans, but it certainly is an admirable way to operate a business.
Now it’s your turn. Do you think this incident will be the end of Antwan Applewhite’s time in San Diego or will he be given one last chance by the organization? Is Applewhite’s on-field production worth the potential off-field risk he brings or not? Do you approve of A.J. Smith’s no nonsense policy when it comes to off-field incidents or do you think he is avoiding too many potential star players due to red flags? Has Smith’s unbending philosophy changed the image of the Chargers’ franchise or are they still seen as a team with some rotten apples? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below!
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