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LT has to do less, but loves it more

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by Johnny Lightning, Dec 10, 2009.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006

    Winning’ is what matters to LT

    Thursday, December 10, 2009

    SAN DIEGO – He is no longer the man by whom victories are measured.
    And that is fine with him, as long as he can measure this apparent twilight of his time in San Diego in victories.
    There is a peace about LaDainian Tomlinson this season, evident in his smile and the things he says. He appears happier than at any time in the past two years, paradoxical if only because he was a greater contributor on the field in those seasons.
    “It has to do with winning,” Tomlinson said. “If we’re winning, it doesn’t matter how many yards I get. At this point, I’m missing a championship, and this is the best team I’ve been on as far as being able to get that done.”
    From 2004-08, the Chargers were 27-3 in games in which Tomlinson ran for 100 yards or more. In 2009, he has yet to run for 100 yards.
    He has hardly had the chance.
    Tomlinson has run the ball more than 18 times just four times in his 10 games this season and never has run it more than 24 times. From 2001 to ’08, Tomlinson ran at least 19 times in 85 of his 127 starts. He had at least 25 rushes in 32 of those starts.
    But the Chargers believe the current version of Tomlinson, on pace for a career-low 224 carries and 748 rushing yards, is one that will for the first time since 2006 carry on strongly through the playoffs, maybe even be better than he ever has been for a January.
    “He knows he’s missed the postseason basically the past two years,” head coach Norv Turner said. “The fact he feels real good, he feels fresh and strong, mentally, I think he’s in a good place, I think that’s good for our team.”
    What the Chargers have morphed into this season is not exactly running back by committee, but it’s closer than it’s been since Tomlinson first graced San Diego with his presence. Tomlinson has never handled fewer than 65 percent of the Chargers’ rushes in a season and four times has been the ball carrier in 73 percent or more of their runs. This year, he has fewer than 53 percent of their 319 rushes.
    Tomlinson is still the Chargers’ primary ball carrier for the first half and at least into the third quarter. But Darren Sproles comes in on almost every third down, and fullbacks Jacob Hester and Mike Tolbert have handled the bulk of the duties running out the clock in games the Chargers have led.
    “LT is capable of doing it,” Turner said. “I just don’t know if it would be in his or our best interest to have that wear and tear over a period of time.”
    Said Tomlinson: “I think it helps when it’s a long season.”
    Tomlinson ranks eighth on the NFL’s all-time rushing list, has scored the third-most touchdowns in league history, and is certainly bound for the Hall of Fame.
    But a knee injury limited him to two carries in the Chargers’ 2007 AFC Championship Game loss at New England. And a hip injury made him largely ineffective in the Chargers’ playoff victory over Indianapolis last January and kept him out of their divisional playoff loss at Pittsburgh.
    Tomlinson would love to be carrying more, so he isn’t entirely ebullient when addressing the topic of how this conservation could pay off in a postseason rebirth.
    “It could be,” he said.
    Quarterback Philip Rivers, who has become the offense’s cornerstone, knows what a healthy LT would do for the Chargers.
    “As long as he’s in the backfield here, there is going to be that thought of, ‘Don’t let 21 beat you,’ ” Rivers said. “Some of it is because what he’s done and some of it is because he can still do it … Other teams don’t say, ‘He’s got this many carries for this many yards.’ They turn on (film) and go, ‘This is the same guy that we couldn’t stop four years ago.’ They see a run, see a cut.
    “The stats that stack up, it doesn’t determine what defenses do. There is still the burst, there is still the production throughout (the) course of games and within the scheme of what we’re trying to do offensively.”

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