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Chargers to say goodbye to Oakland amid London report aftermath

Chargers to say goodbye to Oakland amid London report aftermath

OAKLAND, Calif. — Chargers running back Melvin Gordon can only imagine what it’s like to be tackled on a dirt baseball infield during an NFL game.

Since Gordon entered the league in 2015, the Chargers have only played the Oakland Raiders on a full field of grass. The Raiders are the last team in the NFL to a home field with a Major League Baseball team.

With the Oakland Athletics no longer in season, the Chargers will again avoid the clunky and majestic field for Thursday night’s matchup against the Raiders at RingCentral Coliseum, formerly known as Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

Unless the AFC West rivals meet in the postseason, this will be the Chargers’ final visit to the “Black Hole” in the Bay Area. The Raiders are scheduled to relocate to Las Vegas next season.

“I got lucky,” Gordon said about not playing on the baseball field. “I heard that’s not a good feeling to get tackled on that sand. I’m glad they got grass out there.”

Gordon’s coach, Anthony Lynn, would probably tell Gordon he heard right. Lynn played in Oakland multiple times as a member of the Denver Broncos in the 1990s.

The Chargers’ third-year coach is a bit disappointed that the Raiders won’t roll out the partial dirt field for their final game there.

“You just ran a little faster when you were in the dirt because you were trying to get the hell out,” Lynn said. “Some of these guys, they probably couldn’t care less (about playing in Oakland). I’ve been playing in the Coliseum my whole life, coaching in the Coliseum. I’m going to miss the place.”

Lynn will miss the rowdy Oakland fans, even though one threw a double-A battery at him once.

“I did get hit by a battery in Oakland, but I think it’s a great place to play,” Lynn said. “The fans, they really get into it. They bring a lot of energy.”

Chargers left tackle Russell Okung avoided being hit by an egg during one of his Oakland visits. He’s going to miss the atmosphere and a certain odor from the stands.

“You go in there and it smells like straight weed, so there’s no place like it,” Okung said. “With Oakland, they’re different bunch of people. They’re insane.

“There’s no place like it. I don’t want to say it’s going to be nostalgic because I’m not that committed to their environment, but it’s a special place, and it has its place in NFL history.”

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has countless memories from his 13 games in Oakland. His first career start took place there in 2006, a 27-0 win on “Monday Night Football.”

Rivers remembers throwing the ball only 11 times in his debut against the Raiders. He completed 8 of 11 passes for 108 yards and one touchdown.

“I think what’s so interesting is just seeing the wide array of ages and personalities and everything, and they’re almost in character form,” Rivers said about the Oakland fans. “They kind of take on a whole new character for four hours. It’s definitely a unique place to trot out for a quarterback-center exchange unlike many places we go.”

Rivers’ most career wins as a visitor have come at the Oakland Coliseum, where he is 9-4. He can create more positive memories if he’s able to get his 10th career win in Oakland before saying farewell.

The Chargers have spent their short week revisiting past Oakland memories, but they have a pivotal game in front of them. The Chargers (4-5) and the Raiders (4-4) are one win behind the Indianapolis Colts (5-3) for the second wild-card spot in the AFC.

But instead of focusing on the present, the Chargers have reminisced about the past, and were asked about the potential future.

On Monday, The Athletic reported that London has been mentioned by the NFL as a possible relocation destination for the Chargers. Chargers owner Dean Spanos poured gasoline on the story Tuesday after huddling a group of beat reporters and providing a expletive-laced statement to vehemently deny the London report.

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After Spanos stormed off at the conclusion of his 25-second statement, the Chargers’ best win of the season and their upcoming prime-time game became an afterthought. Spanos’ F-bombs and the London report became the top topic for national talk shows, and players were asked uncomfortable questions about it in the locker room.

Lynn said it won’t be a distraction for his team against the Raiders. Perhaps a few swear words won’t affect the Chargers on the field. They’ll likely hear much worse from the fans in the stands.

“The aura of what that place has meant over the years will be alive on Thursday night,” Rivers said.

The Raiders know their future. They’re moving to Sin City next season.

As for the Chargers, their future might not be as clear. But if they win Thursday, they would at least be able to consider the 2019 NFL playoffs as a possible destination.