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Tuesday, January 10, 2006 | Leave it to a former San Diego quarterback to cloud the Chargers’ quarterback situation with his sack of Drew Brees.

When I mentioned the irony of Lynch’s hometown sack to him in the locker room following the Dec. 31 Broncos-Chargers game, he offered only a half-smile. He was more concerned about Brees than celebrating his athleticism.

“I hope Drew will be all right,” Lynch said. “He’s a tough competitor who gets up all the time from hard hits. When he didn’t get up, I was concerned.”

Brees’ torn labrum was surgically repaired last week. Now the most important factor is hard work from the athlete in rehab. That’s a given with Drew Brees.

I expect Brees to come back with a stronger arm. Other quarterbacks, including San Diego State’s Kevin O’Connell, have said their arm is stronger once they’ve recovered from the surgery.

And we can expect to see Lynch back next year, too, whether he’s wearing that second Super Bowl ring he covets or is still chasing it.

“I joke around and tell people I’ll play five more years,” said Lynch, who turns 35 in September. “I’m feeling good. I’ve always said as long as I have the passion, I want to play. I’m a guy who could never be a situational player. I like being out there every down. As long as I feel I can still do that, I’ll continue to play.”

The game is still fun for Lynch, and he recognizes it’s still a game, too. Of all the San Diego high school athletes I’ve met who’ve evolved into a celebrated professional athlete, Lynch more than any other is the same guy now as he was then. I’ve never known him to “big-time” people.

And San Diego athletes don’t get much bigger than John Lynch. He was an All-American safety at Stanford. This will be his seventh Pro Bowl in February. He was the hometown hero as a key player in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Super Bowl XXXVII championship over the Oakland Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium in the 2002 season.

Dennis Green, the Arizona Cardinals’ head coach and Lynch’s coach at Stanford, says Lynch is a future Pro Football Hall-of-Famer.

The Tampa Two is a two-deep coverage that featured Warren Sapp in the defensive line, Derrick Brooks at linebacker and Lynch deep in zone coverage. Lynch could play deep with the eye of a quarterback or come up and deliver hits with the force of a linebacker.

It says a lot about Lynch’s personality that he gave up the glory position of quarterback that others cling to desperately. When Green suggested the switch entering his junior season in 1991, Lynch was behind returning starter Jason Palumbis and future NFL quarterback Steve Stenstrom.

“The No. 1 thing about John as a quarterback coming out of Torrey Pines was his leadership and his competitiveness,” Green said. “We had a lot of talented guys in that freshman class, and he was the most respected guy on offense and defense. I felt with his leadership skills and his aggressiveness he would develop quicker as a safety.”

Lynch, you might not know, is already in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. He pitched the first game in the then-expansion Florida Marlins’ organization in a minor league game. The hat he wore hangs in Cooperstown.

But that was in another life before the NFL. Canton, home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, should be clearing space for a bust of John Lynch.

Tom Shanahan is Voice’s sports columnist. He is the media coordinator for the San Diego Hall of Champions (www.sdhoc.com). You can e-mail him at

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