Chargers’ new strength coach wants more than bigger, faster, stronger players – Orange County Register

COSTA MESA — On the first day of the rest of their lives, the Chargers underwent basic testing Tuesday in their weight room with Ben Herbert, whose title as executive director of player performance seems far more impressive than just their new coach strength and conditioning.

The Chargers also met with Jim Harbaugh, their new head coach, who usually has the clearer title of coach. Or just Jim. Harbaugh participated in separate meetings with the offensive and defensive players. Special teams meetings are expected to take place Wednesday morning.

It was the same as any other opening day of optional spring practices in the NFL.

Only different.

Very different.

“Most people think of January 1 as the start of the new year,” Harbaugh said, speaking in his own way on behalf of everyone involved. “Those who embrace Christianity, Catholicism, associate it with the birth of Christ. But for us, in football, it’s today. April 2 marks the start of the new year. It’s a beautiful day.

It was a day to forge new relationships, particularly between the players and Herbert, whose six-year tenure with Harbaugh at the University of Michigan brought them together again with the Chargers. Or more accurately, it kept them together after Harbaugh was hired as coach on Jan. 24.

The Harbaugh Method involves a lot of things at different times, many of which relate to Herbert, a former defensive lineman who helped the University of Wisconsin win back-to-back Rose Bowl titles before getting into the power play and of physical conditioning at his alma mater for the 2002 season.

Herbert also worked at the University of Arkansas for five years before teaming up with Harbaugh for the 2018 season. Together, they helped Michigan win the national championship last January, with just two players on a roster of 145 injured at the end of the season.

When Chargers players arrived at their practice facility Tuesday morning, they received a detailed questionnaire. How many times could they bench press 225 pounds? What was the range of motion in their hips? Or their ankles? Were they good athletically? Were they elite? Were they superior?

There were no wrong answers.

From the start of the training itself, the players became aware of the attention to detail that will be required of them between now and the end of the season in January. Or February. For example, they learned that they had to stack the weights in a certain way, so that they lined up perfectly. Chance is not a word in Herbert’s vocabulary.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s the second plate or the 10th plate, it goes back precisely,” Herbert said in his first meeting with reporters. “It’s no different than a (defensive back)’s footwork. Or that of a lineman. The way we practice is with attention to detail. We train the same way, how we keep the room.

“The way we do everything, there’s a certain level of detail.”

Herbert declined to say whether that element was missing under the previous regime, with Brandon Staley as coach and Tom Telesco as general manager. Hebert smiled when asked about the trip to Home Depot he took with Harbaugh to buy a Shop-Vac to clean the weight room.

In fact, it wasn’t just about arranging the workspace. Herbert spent time arranging and rearranging all sorts of things, including weights and resistance bands used for resistance training. According to Herbert, there had to be a sense of order before the real work could begin.

Bigger, faster, stronger is just a mantra for Herbert.

Consistency and stability in all respects is another.

Actions that speak louder than words are one more.

“I’m not changing,” Herbert said. “I told the guys, ‘I have a wife, two boys, two dogs, a car with four tires. If I have a flat tire, I won’t blame you. If something happens, I don’t change emotionally. When I walk into the establishment, who you know me to be is who I am. Every day. That has never changed.


The Chargers signed former Baltimore Ravens fullback/tight end Ben Mason, who played for Harbaugh at Michigan. The Ravens drafted Mason in the fifth round in 2021 and he spent time with Baltimore and the New England Patriots and Chicago Bears practice squads before returning to the Ravens in 2022.

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