COSTA MESA — Cardale Jones didn’t cry.
The newest Charger has had a whirlwind week, one that involved a cross-country move on the eve of the NFL season. Instead of preparing for a second season in Buffalo, he got on a plane bound for Southern California — ready to digest a new playbook, meet new teammates, and reunite with a familiar coach.
But that report of him bursting into “tears of joy” upon being traded out of Western New York?
“I have no idea where that came from,” Jones said Sunday, after the Chargers’ first training camp practice at Jack Hammett Sports Complex.
Instead, Jones said he had mixed emotions about the trade. On one hand, the Bills had used a fourth-round pick on him, and he had developed a “soft spot” for them. On the other, this was a chance for him to work not only with Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn, but a potential Hall of Famer in quarterback Philip Rivers.
“He’s the only one I’ve ever met — a celebrity, athlete, however you want to put it — I got starstruck around,” Jones said of Rivers.
The two met more than a year ago, when Jones was preparing for the 2016 NFL draft. Both he and Rivers’ younger brother, Stephen, were training in San Diego with quarterback guru George Whitfield. Philip dropped by to advise Stephen, and Jones took the opportunity to absorb a few extra lessons.
What impressed him the most was Rivers’ attention to detail, which underscored even the simple tips he gave about quarterback drops.
Like Jones, Rivers didn’t play much early in his career, sitting behind Drew Brees for two seasons even as a top-five pick. Now, the 35-year-old holds one of the league’s most impressive resumes: six Pro Bowls, 185 consecutive starts, and a career passer rating of 94.7 — eighth-best among quarterbacks who have thrown at least 1,500 times.
“Even if I touch half of that, I’d be a pretty good player,” Jones said.
For now, however, just winning the backup job would be a positive sign. Veteran journeyman Kellen Clemens has already put in three years as a sounding board for Rivers, experience that can’t be overlooked given Jones’ unfamiliarity with the Chargers’ offensive terminology. But if the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Jones flashes enough promises this month, he could at least nudge the team into carrying a third quarterback on its regular-season roster.
During his first practice, Jones looked uneven, mixing in a long touchdown pass with a handful of overthrown passes. He…