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News » San Diego Chargers Inside Slant 2009-02-17

San Diego Chargers Inside Slant 2009-02-17

San Diego Chargers Inside Slant 2009-02-17
Are the Chargers still A-OK with having L.T. as their featured running back?

Such a question seemed unlikely this time last year. But after ending his second straight season on the sidelines when the Chargers needing him most in the playoffs, that thought is no longer off limits.

After eight seasons of being one of the NFL's top backs, has time run out on Tomlinson.

He is coming off his worst season - if one wants to call it that - since he was drafted No. 5 overall by the Chargers. Still, he rushed for more than 1,100 yards and ran for 11 touchdowns, despite being compromised with a toe and groin injury.

But the Chargers, long proud of having so much room under their salary cap, are now counting pennies. Not only is it because Tomlinson is due to count some $8.8 million against the cap, but because on the horizon deals must be considered for quarterback Philip Rivers, left tackle Marcus McNeill and outside linebacker Shawne Merriman.

"We need to discuss a number of things," general manager A.J. Smith said.

"There are four options out there. Does he stay? Does he not stay? Is there a trade? Is there a reduction of contract? All of those things must be discussed. We need to evaluate and discuss all of our players, but (everyone's) focus is on L.T. and I understand that because he is a marquee player."

Tomlinson is curious as well. He stated on his web site that if he does leave San Diego, it won't be by his doing.

"I feel that I need to make it very clear that I have no intentions of leaving San Diego," Tomlinson said. "San Diego is where my career started and where I'd like it to end. I have nothing but love and the (utmost) respect for this team, the players, and the Spanos Family. Me being traded is completely out of my hands. I have absolutely no control in that decision making. All I can do is wait and see how it all plays out. As for now, I am a Charger and will be until I am told otherwise."

When Smith heard of Tomlinson's statement, he followed-up with one of his owns. It came off as mocking Smith, as he nearly repeated word-for-word how Smith wanted to remain a Charger do.

Smith would later backtrack, saying disparaging Tomlinson wasn't his motivation. It was reported that Smith called the future Hall of Famer and one of the most popular players in team history to smooth any ruffled feathers.

But the Chargers have made it clear they will not let emotion enter into their most closely watched offseason decision. Like others, they know that running backs often hit the wall around the age 30, and that is something Tomlinson is coming up on fast.

If the Chargers decide they can do without Tomlinson, where do they turn?

Tomlinson's backup, Darren Sproles, proved he is a worth replacement in spot duty. But at 5-foot-6, 181 pounds he isn't built for the pounding an every-down back has to take.

Plus, he's set to be a free agent. So the Chargers have to decide to let him test the market or slap a franchise or transition tag on him to guarantee his return.

Whatever the Chargers decided to do, how they do it will be watched closely.

Tomlinson is a proud man and if the Chargers ask him to restructure his contract, they must not try to low-ball him.

If they do, Tomlinson could head elsewhere and if he can stay healthy, prove the Chargers made a grave mistake.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: February 18, 2009

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