From the SDUT LaDainian Tomlinson wields his leverage with an eye toward his legacy. He wants to be known for something more than his mouth. He wants to be defined by his deeds, not his dollars. "Money's overrated to me," the NFL's highest-paid running back said. "It's good to be comfortable for your family, but how much is comfortable? The most important thing is to be remembered for the way I played this game." Tomlinson is to Terrell Owens as a poem is to a pie fight, as the cello is to the calliope, as class is to crass. The Chargers should count themselves fortunate that their most brilliant Bolt is never confused for a lightning rod. They should count themselves blessed that Terrell Owens is Philadelphia's headache. "I just don't think you need all of the stuff that T.O. is causing to try to get a new contract," Tomlinson said between practices yesterday at the Chargers' Murphy Canyon complex. "There are other ways to go about it. "I spoke out earlier when he had reported to camp, saying T.O. is a grown man, and he's doing the right thing by reporting to camp. Now, it seems like I'm kind of wishing I'd bit my lip." Owens' disruptive efforts to extort further contractual concessions from the Eagles are doomed to fail. His legal claims are spurious, his moral arguments are specious, his tactics are transparent and his overall campaign has been clumsy. One season into a seven-year contract with a potential worth of $48.97 million, the nomadic wide receiver has decided that he's egregiously underpaid. Given his tax bracket and his personal history, Owens generates about as much sympathy as a drunk driving a school bus. If his aim is to coerce the Eagles to release him or to renegotiate through chronic irritation, he is wildly off-target. His counterproductive conduct – openly quarreling with coach Andy Reid, deliberately distancing himself from teammates; referring to quarterback Donovan McNabb as a "hypocrite," etc. – has only galvanized public support behind management's hard line. Owens' valid complaint about the NFL system – that long-term contracts are binding only on the ballplayer – is a point that has been blunted by the misconduct of the messenger. If you want people to listen, you need to be more than loud. Terrell Owens' recurring mistake is that he tends to confuse the ability to attract attention with the capacity to change minds. Rather than rallying colleagues to his cause, he has made himself a pariah among his fellow players. Because "nothing good can come of it," Chargers Assistant General Manager Buddy Nix scrupulously avoids public comment concerning Owens. That's not much of an endorsement considering that Nix was Owens' first college coach at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. Terrell Owens makes friends the way General Motors makes gumballs. "I don't have a problem with guys wanting more money (or) wanting a new contract," Tomlinson said. "That's part of the game. When it comes down to it, clubs can cut you any time they want and they expect you to honor the contract. That's not fair. "But at the same time, I think there's a way you go about doing it. If I'm still under contract, I can't hold out. I can't sit there and bash my teammates. I can't do none of that. I'm going to come out to practice and work hard and hope they honor me for my good deeds. I just think if you go about things the right way, they come back to you in a positive way." It is to Tomlinson's everlasting credit that he could be counted on to take the high road, even when the Chargers were at low ebb. He consistently led with a stiff upper lip, adamant that marked improvement was at hand long before it was made manifest. "You're always looking for the kind of people who will put the team in front of their own personal interest," Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "I think that's kind of the cornerstone of any successful team – a group of people who will subordinate their own personal interests to the welfare of everybody and the interests of everybody. Ultimately, you're all in this business for one reason – winning." If the NFL rewarded virtue as often as it does vice, a good soldier such as Tomlinson would have been traded to the Super Bowl Patriots instead of a career grump like Corey Dillon. If there were any justice, Terrell Owens would have spent his football career as a tackling dummy. Instead, the Eagles must decide whether to make peace with their peevish star or to make an example of him. To yield to Owens' demands, even slightly, would set a terrible precedent. To keep him around, however, could be cancerous. "Honestly, I don't think they can coexist," Tomlinson said. "I think (the Eagles) are going to teach him a lesson. That's just my gut feeling from the way he handled this, you know, bashing them and his quarterback on TV. I don't know anybody who would want to play with him on that team." Terrell Owens is gambling that some team will overlook his temperament for the sake of his talent. If his reputation is beyond repair, that's by conscious choice.