ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – Shaun Phillips is in a good place.
With the Denver Broncos (7-1) visiting San Diego (4-4) on Sunday, the 32-year-old pass rusher who spent nine seasons with the Chargers wants to clear up a few things:
He holds no grudges.
He harbors no regrets.
He can’t wait to renew his trash talk with Philip Rivers.
The Chargers let Phillips go in free agency after he’d collected 69½ sacks over nine seasons.
“Everyone is like, ‘I know you’re (ticked) off.’ But I’m not (ticked) off. I made a lot of money and a lot plays and made a lot of friends in San Diego,” Phillips said. “The fun part is going back to play against your old friends.”
The Broncos needed another pass-rusher after losing Elvis Dumervil to Baltimore following the infamous fax foul-up, and they signed Phillips, who had 9½ sacks last season, to a one-year deal for $1 million.
Switching from a 3-4 outside linebacker to a defensive end position in Denver’s 4-3 scheme, Phillips has provided a fantastic return on that investment.
He’s collected 6½ sacks, six tackles for loss, eight quarterback hurries and three pass breakups. Moreover, he’s served as a veteran locker room leader for the Broncos, who were without the services of star linebacker Von Miller for the first six games of the season.
Interim head coach Jack Del Rio said Phillips “brought a certain element to our defense that we would miss without him.”
Phillips said he’s in “a great situation … and I’m still playing football.”
So, it’s all good.
And he’s also thrilled to face Rivers in a game again.
The two entered the league together in 2004 a few months after they faced each other in the Senior Bowl, where their talents and their trash talk were on full display.
“I think I hit him one play and the next play he threw a pass and he jawed back at me,” Phillips said.
Four months later, they ended up in San Diego together, where the smack-downs continued on a regular basis.
Both are sure to get back at it Sunday.
“I’m pretty sure I’m going to get a hit or two on him and I’m pretty sure he’s looking to make a play or two on me,” Phillips said. “It’ll be a little bit of jawing back and forth but all out of love because I admire Philip and I think he’s a great person and a great player.”
Rivers feels the same way about Phillips.
“He was a teammate of ours for nine seasons and made a ton of plays for us,” Rivers said. “We had a lot of back and forth in those practice days. It’ll be weird seeing him on the other side, but he’s obviously playing really well right now.”
So is Rivers, whose 106.5 passer rating is the third-best mark in the league, trailing only Peyton Manning (119.4) and Aaron Rodgers (108.0).
“It shows that he’s more efficient with his passing,” Phillips said. “I think he’s leading the league in completion percentage among quarterbacks. Philip’s always been a great player but the problem is sometimes he has less weapons and he tries to do too much sometimes. But again, I got to play with Philip, so I think he’s a great player and he’s more of a competitor than anything.”
Trash talk aside, it’s the veteran voice of Phillips that Del Rio is counting on during John Fox’s absence following heart surgery.
“I asked him the other day, what can I do better to help us as a team, and he said just continue doing what you’re doing and just continue leading,” Phillips said. “And that’s one of the things that he likes about me, that I go out there business as usual and I try to lead vocally and by example.”
Phillips’ teammates Louis Vasquez and Quentin Jammer also jumped sides to Denver this season, so this is going to be quite the homecoming.
“I’m in a great situation right now, so there’s nothing for me to be emotional — or complain or upset or overzealous or too happy — about,” Phillips said. “I’m happy I get to go play football. It’s going to be fun to go back.”
For another round of smack talk with his buddy Rivers.
Notes: Del Rio spoke with Fox for 20 minutes Thursday and said he was in “great spirits.” Fox remains in intensive care at a North Carolina hospital following his heart surgery Monday. … Wes Welker (ankle) returned to practice Thursday.
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
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