This happened Thursday, at the conclusion of the Chargers-Cowboys joint practice. The quarterbacks had a throwing-into-the-net contest (Ben DiNucci for the Dallas win!), and then Chargers QB Justin Herbert went to the far end of the far field to practice a specific route. I went down and took a few photos, and a couple videos, when a ball boy approached me.
“Could you please stop filming,” he said.
It was not a question.
“Sure,” I said.
Herbert went at this specific route for 12, 15, 18 minutes, throwing to a couple of camp receivers, time after time. By my watch, he stopped 37 minutes after practice ended. Don’t know how many throws he made … maybe 60.
Then he came off the field, did a scheduled session with the news media, and walked over to me. “Hey, I’m sorry for that,” he said. “I could have handled it better. Should have.”
“You definitely don’t need to apologize,” I said. “I wasn’t aware that was off-limits.”
I asked him about the time he spent—after both the Wednesday and Thursday practices—with the extra throwing. It wasn’t just working extra after practice. I wondered about all the extra throws, and the wear on his arm. It’s one thing for a receiver to catch a bunch of balls off the JUGS machine (see: Ja’Marr Chase, in this space two weeks ago), and another thing for a quarterback to air out his arm in practice two days in a row, with extra sessions after each.
“During practice,” Herbert said, “there are times where maybe I miss a throw or maybe I don’t feel like I did my best on that play. I think practice is a time to let it go and go onto the next one. You never want your last play to affect your next one. After practice is where if I need to focus on something, I need to work through something, that’s where I’m gonna make that throw again and again. I just feel like it’s something I have to do. I just have to. I place the ball where I want to, and work on that throw a few times.”
“And your arm’s okay with all that extra throwing?” I asked.
“I take great care of my arm. Plenty of strength training, ice, all the stuff that I need to so I’m able to throw the ball like that … every week. I think now is the time to do it because I’m not playing in the preseason games. We’re off for the next three days. I’ll have plenty of time to rest it. My arm can take it. I’ll rest and I’ll get back at it. I would hate going into this weekend knowing maybe I didn’t throw as well as I would’ve liked. The way I am—I have to go out there and get it right. Throw, feel good about it, and then head off the field. That’s sort of my routine.”
Driving away that day, I thought: There’s a reason this guy’s thrown for 9,300-some yards and 69 touchdowns in his first two NFL seasons, and I think I just saw it.