For years Ladianian Tomlinson has been one of the most prolific offensive weapons in the National Football League. In his first seven seasons in the NFL, Tomlinson was unstoppable in his claim of pro football's record books. Approaching each season with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove, LT erased all doubts that he would go down in history as one of the game's all-time greats. But as he approaches the stigmatic age of 30, Tomlinson again finds himself having to prove the doubters wrong.
LT has set the bar so high for running backs in the NFL, that even he is finding it difficult to constantly meet such stratospheric expectations. Held back by nagging injuries last year, Tomlinson could never really find his stride. Couple that with his head coach's new approach to the Chargers offense, and it's not hard to see why LT's production was the lowest of his illustrious career.
“I think, in my case, it’s been two of the most unfortunate injuries that a guy can go through. A lot of times what happens is guys start to have the nagging injuries, the chronic injuries is what they call them; the certain things that just continue to keep bothering you. I haven’t had that problem. As of right now, I’m fully healthy, I’m strong again, fast. All the things I used to do before my injury, I’m able to do without a problem. I really don’t put too much stock in the age factor because when you can play the game and you still got it, you still got it. I definitely still got it but that’s for me to prove and I can’t wait to get on the field so I can do that.”
Those skeptical that Tomlinson can indeed bounce back and have another Pro Bowl-caliber year point to the inevitable fact that LT is going to be a 30 year old running back in a league that traditionally hasn't been kind to ball carriers who've lived for three decades or more. But LT simply sees the question of age as another opportunity to prove the doubters wrong.
“I’ve stayed healthy, played every single game, put up huge numbers. The last two years it could have happened to anybody. It could have happened my first year, it could have happened my second year and the talk would have been, “He just needs to get healthy, they just need to keep him healthy.” But now since I’m approaching 30, that’s the stigma that everybody fights. All the great ones, they fight this. I can’t argue with that but I still feel like I’m in great shape and healthy.”
There's no question that Tomlinson is not your typical running back. Indeed, Tomlinson is a rare breed who's among the best to ever play. Already a sure-fire inductee into Canton's Pro Football Hall of Fame, there are still accomplisments that LT strives to achieve before retiring; winning the Super Bowl and breaking childhood hero Emmit Smith's rushing record.
“It’s something that’s there and as I get closer to the record, I definitely want to chase it. Life in the NFL is so short and so many great things happen and I just want to take every opportunity and advantage I have playing this game and not take anything for granted. When I’m done, I can always look myself in the mirror and say, “You know what, I gave it everything I had and I did it the right way.”
Does Tomlinson have a legitimate shot at the record, or will his carries continue to decline as the league moves towards a running-back-by-committee approach? Would you like to see LT break the rushing record, even if that means he has to do so on another team? Or would you rather he retire a Charger and never wear another team's uniform?
Hat tip to Jimmy Shapiro's blog SportsRadioInterviews.com
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