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Phillips Hopes to Help Fill Sack Void

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When the rivalry between the Broncos and Chargers threatened to spin across the line from heated to downright hostile in recent years, Shaun Phillips was often there

But he's just one of many spiders in the AFC West's tangled web of rivalries to jump sides. That storied, ever-lengthening list -- a group that includes luminaries like Neil Smith, Marcus Allen, Lyle Alzado and Hall of Famer Willie Brown now includes Phillips, who was cast aside after nine seasons in San Diego but found a soft landing spot in Denver after agreeing to terms Saturday.

"That's how life is. Sometimes you may grow up rooting for one team, and you find a reason to start rooting for another team," Phillips said. "I'm sure there's going to be a little trash-talking back and forth, but it's part of the game."

Phillips knows a little about that with the Broncos, since the two sides have a well-known history of spirited, salty on-field banter. The most publicized incident came before a 2009 game in Denver, when Phillips and then-coach Josh McDaniels engaged in a shouting match.

It drew headlines then. It's no big deal now.

"Josh is a competitive guy. I'm a competitive guy. It was just more fun than anything.," Phillips said.  I didn't take it personal. I'm pretty sure he didn't take it too personal. So, at the end of the day it's football, and we play this game to compete, and that's what we're going to do."

The faces on the sideline have changed since then -- which only adds to the intrigue. John Fox was once a Chargers assistant and grew up in San Diego. Chargers coach Mike McCoy was Denver's offensive coordinator the last four years. But the spice in the rivalry will remain.

"I'm on the good side now," Phillips said. "I'm excited. It's going to be fun."

The venue change is only the beginning for Phillips, who will handle a new role, transitioning from 3-4 outside linebacker to 4-3 defensive end.

"It's comfortable for me," Phillips said. "I'm a natural defensive end that was moved to linebacker, and so for me it's like going back home for me if I have to put my hand in the dirt."

He could find himself in an every-down role, but with Robert Ayers and Derek Wolfe poised to be the base-package defensive ends, Phillips could fit as an end in nickel and dime packages, playing opposite Von Miller. The task for Phillips, Ayers and rookie Quanterus Smith will be to replace Dumervil's 11-sack production.

"They lost Elvis, and what was interesting to me was that they just wanted somebody that can help come in and try to fill that void and put pressure on the quarterback, which I've been fortunate enough to do throughout my career," Phillips said.

The communication between Phillips and the Broncos increased "maybe a week or two ago," he said, but the courtship became serious after the Broncos did not draft an edge rusher in the first round Thursday.

"Once the draft started and they didn't take a pass rusher, I knew it was a good possibility," Phillips said. "I was still nervous because I really wanted to be here and I just wanted to feel like they really wanted me and they went out and showed me that they really wanted me to be here.

"They enjoyed me, and I really enjoyed the organization, and I'm excited."

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