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News » San Diego Chargers Inside Slant 2009-03-17


San Diego Chargers Inside Slant 2009-03-17


San Diego Chargers Inside Slant 2009-03-17
Running back LaDainian Tomlinson agreed to a restructured contract, and he will return for his ninth season with the Chargers.


Among the team's biggest offseason dilemmas was what to do with their future Hall of Famer. But Tomlinson agreed to rework the deal, which could cost him in years 2010 and 2011, and he'll be leading the ground attack in 2009.

Tomlinson, the NFL MVP in 2006, will worry about the future in the future. Among the reasons he's returning to San Diego is he feels the team is near that elusive Super Bowl championship.

"I think we're very close," Tomlinson said. "Obviously over the past two years we've been hampered a little bit by injuries. That's been the unlucky part of it. I've got to figure that it's our time. I've got to figure that this is not going to continue to happen to us where we get so close and get injured and really hurt ourselves in that way where we can't be at full strength. When we're at full strength, we're a tough team to deal with. I think everyone has seen that in the past. I'm looking forward to being at full strength with this team."

Tomlinson was slowed last year by toe and groin injuries, limiting him to a career-low 1,100 rushing yards, but that was still fourth-best in the NFL. Tomlinson also had 11 rushing touchdowns in an air-oriented attack that had run-blocking issues.

But the real issue the past two months was Tomlinson's status. When the two parties virtually guaranteed his $6.7 million salary for the coming season, Tomlinson was glad to restructure the back end to lessen the team's cap hit from his contract.

Tomlinson said he always thought he would stay a Charger, but there were times the dialogue became a little testy.

"From my standpoint, I remained optimistic about it," Tomlinson said. "At the same time, I knew that it was a business and guys sometimes go other places. For that reason, I kept it in the back of my mind that I might have to. At the same time, I had to think that something would happen. As we kept continuing to talk about it, I became more optimistic that I would be here. I kind of figured something would get done and it did."

The Chargers figure to enhance their two-back approach next season after already designating shifty back Darren Sproles with the franchise tag. The combination of Sproles and Tomlinson - plus Philip Rivers' coming off a career-year - has the Chargers offense offering a diverse and explosive attack.

That includes Tomlinson, although he will be 30 by next opening day.

"I think I will continue to be a very explosive player," he said. "You guys saw me last year where I was banged up all year, played with a hurt toe and obviously with the groin injury. I'll be back to full strength and to being the L.T. that you guys are used to seeing."

General manager A. J. Smith is seeing some cap room he'll soon need in resigning Rivers, tight end Antonio Gates, left tackle Marcus McNeill and possibly linebacker Shawne Merriman.

"L.T. has always helped us on the field and now he's helped us off the field," Smith said. "Now we have some cap room over the next few years."



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: March 17, 2009

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