COSTA MESA, Calif. — Los Angeles Chargers safety Derwin James Jr. jogged onto the practice field as Sir Charles Jones’ week-ending anthem, “Friday,” blared from the speakers.
James and the Bolts appeared to be going through the routine moves of one final pre-game day practice, but a quick double-glare revealed something entirely unique.
A collared shirt popped under James’ training jersey #3.
“It’s business Friday!” James explained smiling. “You must be ready for business.”
Alongside James, defenseman Sebastian Joseph-Day and wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams wore the unusual training attire, though Williams’ time wearing a polo was short-lived.
“I didn’t like how I played [that Sunday]’ Williams said. “So that was the end.”
“It would be hard not to notice,” head coach Brandon Staley grinned of the movement started by James and Allen in Week 1, with an open invitation to anyone else who wants to join.
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“It’s a bit of a joke to mind our business, mind the little things and stay focused,” said Joseph-Day, a team captain along with James and six others. “But it’s also a little fun.”
The Chargers are 5-3 and on track to secure their second place in the playoffs in nine seasons as they prepare for a matchup against the 4-4 San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday Night Football ( NBC, 8:20 p.m. ET). .
Business Friday helped translate into some Sunday successes, but perhaps more than anything, it brought some ease through what has already been a nine-week rollercoaster ride and into a long 18-week — and possibly longer — season.
“You have to find that celebration, whether it’s getting dressed or playing football, you have to find time to have fun because it’s hard and it’s long,” said James, who became the NFL’s highest-paid safety during the offseason by signing one four-year extension for $76.5 million. “You lose people all season with injuries and stuff, so you just have to have opportunities to have fun.”
The Chargers have suffered an inordinate number of injuries, placing starting edge rusher Joey Bosa, cornerback JC Jackson and left tackle Rashawn Slater on injured reserve. Defensive lineman Austin Johnson is also expected to join the IR list after suffering a season-ending knee injury last Sunday. Several other players, including Allen, Williams and kicker Dustin Hopkins, have or will miss multiple games through injury.
None of this has helped the Bolts find much-needed consistency on the field.
The offensive flashed, but otherwise could not repeat the success of 2021. Despite a recent streak of touchdowns from running back Austin Ekeler, who has 10 touchdowns in his last five games as the league leader, the offense ranks 18th overall for efficiency and averaging 22.75 points per game (ranked 11th).
Quarterback Justin Herbert, who has played through a fractured rib cartilage since ending a Week 2 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, has had 13 touchdowns (t-ninth) with five interceptions (t-13th).
The defense has been underwhelmed despite the addition of Joseph-Day and edge rusher Khalil Mack in the offseason and ranks 22nd in efficiency while allowing 25.75 points per game and a league-worst 5.71 yards per carry.
Despite this, the Bolts are still in position to secure a spot in the wildcard playoffs.
“After seven games you get a really accurate picture of the struggle on your football team and then you had to experience all of these things that most people experience in an entire season,” Staley said after a 20-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 9, which required a game-winning field goal from rookie kicker Cameron Dicker.
“We’re still under capacity, which is exciting because we know what’s ahead and we know what we’ve had to endure, and now we know where we need to go and how to get there.”
Part of this journey is developing camaraderie and chemistry with teammates.
“When your boys do things like that, it means they like each other,” Staley said. “We’re going to need all of that, the brotherhood and our culture brought to life to play winning football here all the way through.”
Although for some, business attire doesn’t seem like the way to go during training.
“I don’t know why they’re doing this,” Mack said, a perplexed look on the ninth year’s face.
When asked if he’d seen the movement — and would consider joining it — it seemed like a step too far for the often serious Herbert.
“I would probably just say do my best to go out on Friday and take care of business. Maybe we can address that later, but not yet,” he said.
But for James, Joseph-Day and Allen, they intend to go full-on with Business Friday.
“People always laugh when they see me in it,” Joseph-Day said. “It’s just a light-hearted mindset even though you know you mean it because it’s a serious thing.”
“I will continue. I don’t care who does it,” said James, noting that polo shirts are available through the equipment staff. “I feel like I played well, so just keep going.”