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Old 11-04-2006, 11:51 AM
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Default Chargers' Polk gets his shot

Chargers' Polk gets his shot

By: JAY PARIS - Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO ---- Linebacker Carlos Polk will be seen and heard Sunday.

Few Chargers move their chops like Polk, the chatty six-year pro from Nebraska. He' s the Big Mouth from the Big Red, always quick with a complimentary word or cajoling a teammate to greater heights.

But it's the confident Polk who will be asked to lift his game, filling in for suspended Pro Bowler Shawne Merriman against the Browns.

"If you talk to him,'' coach Marty Schottenheimer said of Polk, "he's already got one foot in the Hall of Fame.''

Fame has been fleeting for Polk. The spotlight and headlines seldom find Polk, whose best work comes on the anonymous special teams. Plus, injuries torpedoed his past two seasons and he played in just one game in two years.

"It's been a journey, but you got to stay the course,'' Polk said. "And God has a plan for all of us. If you dwell on the past, you never get ahead.''

Polk has spent his NFL career behind someone. A fourth-round pick in 2001, he's never been first string, instead always playing second fiddle.

That changes Sunday, as the Chargers go for their third straight victory.

"He's been waiting for this moment for his whole life,'' veteran linebacker Randall Godfrey said. "I hate that it is this late in his career, but it's good for him.''

Good, too, for the Chargers? That will be determined as a naughty Merriman sits out the first of his four games. Polk will fill the void on running downs in a rotation that includes Stephen Cooper and Akbar Gbaja-Biamila.

"I'm no 'Lights Out', but I have my own strengths, too,'' Polk said. "I know they will probably focus on me and design their offense to come toward me, and I'm looking forward to it.''

Looking back, Polk was a Nebraska star and an All-America selection. But when punching the NFL clock, his work station became special teams. His job was blowing up returns, breaking wedges and supplying blocks to spring others.

He was the Chargers' special teams player of the year in 2002; in '03, he shared the honor. Then a two-year string of injuries relegated him to cheerleader status.

But the Chargers, like the energetic Polk, kept the faith. Despite but 10 career tackles on defense in five years, they gave him a one-year deal in January. And now November brings his maiden start. He has nine tackles in the base defense, five more on special teams.

"I don't worry about him hustling; he is going to be around the ball,'' Godfrey said. "He'll have some big hits because he is physical ---- it is going to be fun. I know how motivated he is and how he is ready to play. We just have to let him fit in and do his role.''

Sounds good to the 6-foot-2, 262-pound Polk.

"I just want to have my presence known,'' he said. "I know 'Lights Out' isn't going to be there and the other team is probably happy of that. But I want to establish my presence early in the game. Just do my job, not try to do too much, and I'm sure things will work as they are supposed to.''

They did last Sunday when Polk's motor mouth ignited Marlon McCree's engine after pouncing on a fumble. McCree returned it 79 yards for a game-changing touchdown.

"I dove on it because it was in traffic and Carlos Polk is yelling, 'Get up, get up,'' McCree said. "I got up.''

For starters, Polk is up for Sunday's assignment.

CHARGERS NOTES ---- DE Igor Olshansky (knee) was able to work Friday and has a chance of returning Sunday; he has missed the past two games. OLB Shaun Phillips (calf) didn't practice and will sit this weekend. Others set to go are DBs Bhawoh Jue (knee) and Clinton Hart (hip). ... The Chargers will wear their throwback uniforms Sunday, as they honor their alumni. ... FB Lorenzo Neal is playing in his 200th consecutive game on Sunday. ... Fans are encouraged Sunday to bring nonperishable, canned goods to Qualcomm Stadium for the team's annual food drive. The most needed items are canned meats, canned fruits and vegetables, pasta, soup, cereal and non-food items such as toothpaste and deodorant. The fan donating the most food receives an autographed football by LaDainian Tomlinson. Proceeds benefit Operation HomeFront, providing resources for local military families, and Partners for Hunger Relief a program of the San Diego Rescue Mission.

Contact staff writer Jay Paris at jparis8@aol.com.

Carlos Polk by the numbers

6: NFL seasons

2 : Seasons lost to injury

0: Career starts

19: Career tackles on defense

2: Chargers special teams player of the year honors

3: Linebackers ahead of him who are unavailable: Steve Foley (gun shot wounds), Shaun Phillips (calf injury) and Shawne Merriman (steroid suspension)
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