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Shaun Phillips anxious to face Rivers, former team

Friday - 1/10/2014, 3:58am  ET

Denver Broncos defensive end Shaun Phillips (90) works on drills as other defensive linemen look on during practice for the football team's NFL playoff game against the San Diego Chargers at the Broncos training facility in Englewood, Colo., on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

PAT GRAHAM
AP Sports Writer

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) -- Shaun Phillips definitely knows this much about former teammate Philip Rivers: He runs his mouth about as well as an offense.

The Denver Broncos hybrid linebacker-defensive end certainly appreciates that, because Phillips is quite a talker, too. He figures the best way to quiet the San Diego quarterback is simply by sacking him. That's the plan anyway when Phillips goes up against the Chargers, his former team, on Sunday in an AFC divisional game.

Actually, Phillips and Rivers have some history with jawing at each other, dating back to playing in the 2004 Senior Bowl.

"I think I chased him out of bounds or something like that, and I was like, 'You better run out,'" Phillips recounted. "He was like, 'What are you going to do?'"

And then they each end up being drafted by the Chargers -- Rivers fourth overall and Phillips in the fourth round. Their squawking back then remains a running joke between them.

No joke, though, is the respect Phillips has for Rivers. He's making sure his teammates on the Broncos' defense are on high alert as well.

Not that they need any advanced warning. Rivers is 10-6 all-time against Denver, throwing for 3,830 yards and 27 TDs.

"He's just a competitor and he hates to lose," Phillips said. "That's what makes him a really good quarterback. But we also have a bunch of guys on defense that hate to lose as well. So that's why it's going to be a fun challenge for both sides of the ball. It's football. And it's playoff football.

"So the excitement is there, the atmosphere is going to be set and it's going to be a good game."

Phillips is one of three Chargers going against their former team, along with All-Pro offensive guard Louis Vasquez and defensive back Quentin Jammer.

"Anytime you play against your old team, you always have a little chip on your shoulder, a little extra edge to get after them," Phillips said. "And that's what's going to happen."

Phillips came on board with the Broncos over draft weekend to replace Elvis Dumervil and he led Denver with 10 sacks, including two against the Chargers.

Since his arrival, the 6-foot-3, 255-pound Phillips has brought a little swagger to Denver's defense. He became a vital component to Denver's success with Von Miller's early season suspension and even more now that Miller's sidelined with a knee injury.

"He's a true competitor," linebacker Wesley Woodyard said. "A dominant guy for the Chargers for a long time."

No arguing that. He had 69½ in his nine-year tenure with San Diego.

"I'm pretty sure he's pretty amped up to get back out there," said Woodyard, whose team split with the Chargers this season, with each squad winning on the road. "I'm definitely glad to say that I'm happy he's on our team."

Phillips is sure to give Rivers an ear full on the field. It's just the nature of their relationship.

Still, he thinks Rivers sometimes draws a bad reputation for his fiery emotions.

"Everyone thinks he's talking trash, saying cuss words and stuff like that," Phillips said. "The guy doesn't even curse. But he is competitive."

To fans in the Mile High City, Rivers is sometimes viewed as public enemy No. 1. Rivers understands the animosity, but tried to thaw the ice a little bit.

"I have a great respect for Denver and that atmosphere and those fans and that organization, so there's no hatred from my end," Rivers said. "There's respect there, from my standpoint. I don't know if that goes the other way or not. Again, I love playing there and I'm looking forward to it."

Phillips feels the same way. Fittingly -- at least for him -- the road to the Super Bowl goes through his former team.

"I'm not even going to jump down the Super Bowl road yet," Phillips said. "If we beat San Diego, then we can worry about the next step. But right now, we're going to focus everything on stopping Rivers, Ryan Mathews and the receivers that they've got. And that is all that is on our mind right now.

"They're playing good football right now, so it's going to be a great challenge for us and it's going to be a great challenge for them."

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