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Butler uses year off to grab Chargers' LB job

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Posted Sept. 08, 2011 @ 10:32 p.m. ET
By Eli Kaberon

After LB Donald Butler tore his Achilles tendon in the first week of the Chargers' 2010 training camp, the third-round pick could have returned to his hometown of Sacramento, Calif., and rehabbed on his couch. Instead, Butler stayed in San Diego, attended every meeting he could and studied the team's defensive playbook just as he would have if he were suiting up on game day.

That extra effort has paid off this season, as Butler has earned a starting job alongside Takeo Spikes at inside linebacker despite never having played in an NFL regular-season game. The redshirt rookie has impressed coaches with his intelligence, a reason he stayed on the field on third downs through much of the preseason, and he's fast to the ball.

San Diego signed veteran Na'il Diggs and has Stephen Cooper on the depth chart, but it is hoping Butler can retain the job throughout the season. Diggs has never played inside 'backer before and still needs to digest the playbook, whereas Cooper is nowhere close to 100 percent because of a preseason biceps injury and likely will end up on I.R.

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