COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Entering his second year in Los Angeles, a turbulent first season is in the rearview mirror for quarterback Philip Rivers.
The Los Angeles Chargers' veteran QB is still making the daily, 88-mile trek from his home in San Diego north on Interstate 5 to the team's headquarters in Orange County, but it has become part of his routine. Talking after practice recently, Rivers shrugged when asked about hitting the road again.
"We've done it," Rivers said. "I've done nights, early and in the afternoon."
Rivers seems more at peace in his second year in L.A., but will that translate into better results on the field?
Year 1 included an 0-4 start in which Rivers and his teammates were booed by opposing fans in their home stadium; the relocation of the franchise from beloved San Diego to indifferent L.A.; and the growing pains with a new coach in Anthony Lynn. The Chargers finished one game behind the division-winning Kansas City Chiefs, who beat them twice.
Rivers is 36 years old and has two years left on a four-year, $83.25 million contract extension he signed in August 2015. However, he believes he still has plenty of gas left in the tank, and wants to be around when the Chargers' sparkling new home in Inglewood opens in 2020.
Rivers said he feels a calmness in his 15th NFL season.
"I keep going to the word steady," Rivers said. "Last year was crazy just with the move and all of that. I think just from a football standpoint, I just feel in a good mindset and approach. I'm seeing things good, as far as knowing every answer for this, and this and this -- and my communication with the guys.
"You go through the move and you try to hit the reset button and say, 'Let's just do our job.' Yeah, make some big plays, but don't try to will anything. You know what, they're not open and we punted. And that's hard, but I think I just feel it's a little less emotional."
Kicking conditioning up a notch
One way Rivers has achieved a little more steadiness in his life is with a change in his offseason workouts.
At the suggestion of his wife, Tiffany, who had been attending classes at 9Round Fitness, Rivers took up kickboxing, going to classes three times a week. Rivers started the routine once the season finished in January and stayed with it until his family's regular vacation to Florida in June.
"My wife had gone there, so I decided to try it," Rivers said. "And I was like, this guy knows what he's doing -- just core stuff and different stuff. Is it helping me today? I don't know, but it was something that I'd never done and I enjoyed it."
Rivers' instructor is Eric Sellars, an eight-year veteran of arena league football as a kick returner and receiver who tried out for the Chargers in 1999.
A native of Burlington, North Carolina, Sellars played a season at the University of North Carolina before joining the Navy and making his way out to San Diego.
"We just kind of worked on different mechanics," Sellars said. "He would come in most of the time when there was hardly anyone in the gym. He did really good. He got some really strong kicks, strong punches. He picked up on it really quick."
Sellars said kickboxing helps with football because it is a full-body workout.
"It's not just one muscle group," Sellars said. "We do a little bit of weights, but everything else is just body weight and reaction. We work on the mechanics of punching and the mechanics of kicking, and in between we're doing all kinds of other exercises, along with what we call an active rest."
The mobile office
Looking for an easier way to travel from his family home in San Diego to the Los Angeles Chargers' new digs in Orange County last year, Rivers connected with the maker of high-end vehicles for Hollywood elites such as Dr. Dre, Barbara Streisand, Stevie Wonder and Jerry Seinfield.
At the expense of close to $200,000, Rivers had an SUV customized by Becker Automotive Design in Oxnard, California, last year so he could comfortably prepare for games during the week.
"Busy people that need to be productive seek us out," said Howard Becker, owner of high-end car conversion company. "Their time is so precious. And leveraging that time into productive output is so meaningful, that not to feels silly."
Hesitant to move his wife and eight children from their home in San Diego, after touring several homes in Orange County, Rivers and wife Tiffany decided to stay put. Instead, Rivers devised a way to handle the commute while still getting his weekly game preparation done.
"I didn't think there were any issues at all," Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said. "His mobile office -- it's unbelievable. I know he's studying tape and he's spending enough time with his teammates, so it wasn't an issue."
Amenities include a 40-inch TV that can connect to his computer so he can study film, a refrigerator and two captain seats for a comfortable ride, one with Rivers' No. 17 on the head rest.
The vehicle also has satellite TV and wireless internet, a fresh-air ventilation system, electric leg extensions and a professional-quality sound system.
Rivers had the vehicle registered under the name Hail Mary LLC.
"Philip's not a bling guy," Becker said. "But at the same token he's at a point in life where beauty, elegance -- not ostentatious -- but there needs to be certain quality of fit and finish and presentation that fits his expectations in life at this point.
"Why sit in traffic driving, or sit in an sedan working on my smart phone when you could be in privacy with a large screen, full-on computer with super-fast internet and an amazing amount of information sources that you could be using just like my office, or in Philip's case, the quarterback room," Becker said.
Taming the gunslinger
Acutely aware of NFL history and his place in it, Rivers knows the numbers.
According to ESPN Stats & Information research, over the past five seasons the Chargers are 5-15 when Rivers turns it over at least two times in a game. The Bolts are 31-27 when he does not.
The Chargers are 19-31 in games decided by eight or fewer points over the past five years. Twenty-seven quarterbacks have started at least 20 games that were decided by eight points or fewer in the past five seasons. Rivers' 38 percent winning percentage is third-worst, ahead of only Blake Bortles (32.3 percent) and Josh McCown (25 percent).
Lynn made it a point of emphasis for Rivers to take care of the football last season, and he obliged, finishing with 10 interceptions -- his lowest interception total for a season since 2009.
However, Rivers had six of those picks in two games against the Chiefs, who the Chargers will face in Week 1. The Chargers have an eight-game losing streak to the Chiefs.
"It's like, golly, whether I admit it or not -- because I think it's become cliché when people say they're trying to do too much -- but, naturally when you're 4-12 and 5-11, and you have the things that were going wrong with us, you want to will wins," Rivers said. "And it's all good intent. The intent is good -- it's because you're competitive and all of those traits that are good -- but it usually it doesn't work.
"It's like, 'OK, good, but throw it here and let us see what happens next,' instead of making something happen that's probably not going to work."
Chargers quarterbacks coach Shane Steichen says Rivers' preparation is what sets him apart, allowing him to be a dynamic playmaker on game days.
"He's obsessed with it," Steichen said. "That's all it is, is football. And I think in his mind it's like, 'Shoot, I've only got so much longer to play this game.' And who knows how much longer he's going to play. If he plays for five more years then, 'I'm shoot, gosh dang, I'm going to put all of my energy into it.'
"You can tell from his rookie year until now, he just doesn't get bored with anything. I mean we can talk about a curl route for three hours, and how we want to run it: 'I want to get back into it. This is the footwork on it.' That's how important it is to him."
Rivers was part of a foundational group of leaders during the team's dominant seasons from 2006 to 2009 that included LaDainian Tomlinson, Shawne Merriman, Nick Hardwick, Kris Dielman and Antonio Gates.
"It's a young group, so it's kind of kept me young," Rivers said. "And I've enjoyed that. Rather than being the old, salty vet that is in there saying, 'Hey, get in here and watch the tape,' and all of that -- yeah, we've got to work, but these young guys are funny, you know what I mean?
"I just kind of enjoy it. My core group is gone, and there's a new core group. And I love these guys. Norv told me that," he said of former Chargers head coach Norv Turner. "He said you're going to go through your time, and all of sudden you're going to look up and all of your guys are going to be gone, and then it's going to be different for a little bit. [Dan] Fouts went through it and used to tell me the same thing, and I've felt that the last, two years."
Although he is a little long in the tooth, Chargers defensive tackle Damion Square said Rivers still relates to the younger players.
"He's the same guy," Square said. "He prepares the same way. The locker room changed a lot in this organization, and it changes a lot. But Phil just learns to adapt with everybody, you know what I mean? He gets in with the young guys, the guys that have been here for four or five years like me.
"He's probably the lone ranger as far as long as he's been here minus Gates right now. So he's still a locker room guy. He doesn't separate himself from us, and I've been in places where I felt that was the situation. He's in the mix with us. He's a team player. He's a kid. He does a good job of accepting everyone for who they are and figuring out a way to laugh with all of the guys, get in all of the jokes."
For the first time in nearly a decade, the Chargers are the team to beat in the AFC West. However, Rivers believes his team will handle the role of frontrunner just fine.
The Chargers have not won the AFC West since 2009, and only he and Gates remain.
"Our team's going to stay hungry," Rivers said. "Yeah, we finished strong, but we haven't won the division since 2009. You know how many guys that are on this team that won the division in 2009? Not many."