Us and Them? What Message Is AJ Smith Sending to the San Diego Chargers?

Chris EggemeyerCorrespondent IJune 16, 2010

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 31:  Vincent Jackson #83 of the AFC's San Diego Chargers jogs on the field during the 2010 AFC-NFC Pro Bowl game at Sun Life Stadium on January 31, 2010 in Miami Gardens, Florida. The AFC defeated the NFC 41-34. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The tension between San Diego Chargers players Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill and general manager AJ Smith has reached the highest point possible.

Jackson and McNeil have made it quite clear that they are more than prepared to sit out most of the 2010 season, and I will admit that they are right to do so.

These two players are stars who deserve quality contracts. The Chargers released and traded a few highly paid stars this off season, and the presumption was that this was not only to change the direction of the team, but to open up salary space for long term deals.

Apparently everyone was fooled.

AJ Smith must really have a solid backup plan, because his strong-arming hasn't worked.

The question here, though, isn't what AJ Smith is thinking. That topic has been talked about and talked about, and no one, including myself, seems to understand what is going on in his mind.

The question is, what kind of atmosphere is AJ Smith creating?

With all of his recent words and actions, AJ Smith is turning the Chargers into an us-against-them kind of organization. Essentially, you're either on Smith's team, or you're not on a team.

He has alienated LaDainian Tomlinson from the team and from the San Diego people. He continues to play rough with the restricted free agents. He is not afraid to deal harshly with those who violate team and league policies.

AJ Smith has created a very rough environment in San Diego, and it could start to seriously effect the team.

This kind of rough play leaves players feeling very unsafe. While this may make players want to perform at their best, it also creates a tense feeling around the team.

AJ Smith's attitude could end up driving the team apart. Smith has cornered everyone and has every player shaking with their tails between their legs. Whether this is good or bad, only time will tell.

Considering all of this, the big question for the Chargers (and their fans as well) is no longer about any player issues. The question is not about parting with Shawne Merriman or Vincent Jackson or Marcus McNeill. The question is, is it time for San Diego to part ways with AJ Smith?