Costa Mesa, Calif. – Los Angeles Chargers safety Devin James Jr. jogged to the practice field as Sir Charles Jones’ weekly ending national anthem “Friday” blared from the speakers.
James and Bolt appeared to be in the routine of a final practice session before the game, but a quick double-take revealed something completely unique.
According to James’ number. 3 Practice jersey pop-up collared shirt.
“It’s Business Friday!” James explained with a smile. “You have to be ready for business.”
Wearing the unusual practice uniform with James were defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph Day and wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, although Williams’ polo-wearing was brief.
“I don’t like the way I play [that Sunday]Williams said. “So that’s the end of it.”
“It’s hard not to notice it,” laughs head coach Brandon Staley, about the campaign in which James and Allen were born in their first week and openly inviting everyone who wishes to join.
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“It’s a little joke about our business, taking care of the little things and staying focused,” said Joseph Day, who captained the team with James and six others. “But also some fun.”
The Chargers are 5-3 and on track for their second playoff berth in nine seasons as they prepare to play on “Sunday Night Football” (NBC, 8:20 p.m. ET). Levi’s Stadium vs. 4-4 San Francisco 49ers.
Business Friday helped translate into some success on Sunday, but perhaps most importantly, it provided some relief through what was already a nine-week roller coaster and into what felt like a long 18 weeks — maybe even longer — season.
“You have to find those celebrations, whether it’s dressing up or having to play football, you have to find time to have fun because it’s hard, it’s long,” said James, who became the NFL’s highest-paid safety signed in the offseason The next four-year, $76.5 million extension. “All season you lose players to injuries and other things, so you have to have a way to have fun.”
The Chargers have suffered a plethora of injuries, putting starting charge Joey Bosa, cornerback JC Jackson and left tackle LaShawn Slater on the injured bench. Defensive lineman Austin Johnson is also expected to join the IR roster after suffering a knee injury last Sunday. Several other players, including Allen, Williams and kicker Dustin Hopkins, have or will miss multiple games with injuries.
None of that helped Bolt find much-needed consistency on the field.
The offense has flashed, but otherwise cannot repeat the success it achieved in 2021. Despite a recent touchdown burst from running back Austin Ekeler, who has a league-leading 10 touchdowns over his past five games, the offense ranks 18th overall in efficiency with 22.75 points per game (ranked 11th).
Quarterback Justin Herbert has 13 touchdowns (9th) and 5 interceptions (13th) with a fractured rib cartilage following a Week 2 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs Second-rate).
Despite the addition of Joseph-Day and Charger Khalil Mack in the offseason, the defense was mediocre, ranking 22nd in efficiency while putting up 25.75 points per game and a league-worst 5.71 yards.
Still, Bolt found himself with a chance at a wild-card playoff spot.
“After seven games, you get a really accurate picture of how your football team is fighting, and then you have to go through all these things that most people go through throughout the season,” Staley said in a 20-17 win over the Atlanta Huntsmen. The Hawks later said that in Week 9, it required a game-winning field goal from rookie kicker Cameron Dicker.
“We haven’t played what we are capable of yet, which is exciting because we know what’s in front of us, we know what we have to absorb, and now we know where we need to go and how to get there. “
Part of that journey is developing camaraderie and chemistry with teammates.
“When your guys do things like that, it means they like each other,” Staley said. “We’re going to need all that, the brotherhood and our culture to live in to win football here.”
Though for some, business attire for practice may not seem the way to go.
“I don’t know why they’re doing this—” Mike said, a puzzled look on the ninth-year pro’s face.
When asked if he had seen and considered joining the movement, it seemed a bit too much for the often no-nonsense Herbert.
“I’d probably just say I’m doing my best to get out of business on Friday. Maybe that’s something we can fix later, but not yet,” he said.
But for James, Joseph Day and Allen, they intend to go all-in on Business Friday.
“People always laugh when they see me in there,” Day said. “It’s just a lighthearted state of mind, even though you know you’re serious because it’s a serious thing.”
“I’m going to keep doing it. I don’t care who does it,” James said, noting that polo can be obtained through equipment staff. “I think I’ve been playing really well, so keep doing it.”