RB LaDainian Tomlinson (Chris Park/Getty)
LaDainian Tomlinson was showing his respect on Monday after Sunday's 24-10 conquest of the Chiefs. Tomlinson, the Chargers' sensational running back, appeared at his press conference wearing a sweet throwback jersey of his idol, Walter Payton.
Tomlinson sprinted past Payton on Sunday when he rushed for two touchdowns. That gave the great Tomlinson 111 in his career, which put him in third place all-time in front of Payton.
The late Payton was Tomlinson's hero growing up in Texas.
"I learned what character's all about, I think, even from afar," Tomlinson said. "I learned how to be humble. I think I also learned how to compete the right way. I think those are very important things that I definitely learned by watching him."
Tomlinson's 177 rushing yards was the second-most yards he has collected this year. But what made it special was him now being mentioned in the same sentence as Payton.
Tomlinson seldom speaks of the numerous milestones he flashed by. But this one was different. At last season's Super Bowl week, Tomlinson was named the co-recipient with Saints quarterback Drew Brees of the NFL's Walter Payton Award. That goes to the NFL player or players displaying the sense of community involvement, which was so important to Payton.
"He was a guy that was a superstar," Tomlinson said. "It wasn't just his superstar ability that I looked to, even though that was the part I was drawn to. It was obvious that there was something else about him that was different. He didn't tell you he was a superstar, didn't brag about it or what not. It just seems the way he handled people was just the way you should."
The Chargers are back playing like they should. With the Broncos losing to the Raiders Sunday, the Chargers are two games up in the AFC West race with four to play. The Chargers have won six of their past eight games and are aiming for consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since 1994-95.
--CB Antonio Cromartie had two more interceptions to give him a league-high eight on the year. "The guy has great ball skills," teammate Shawne Merriman said. "He's a good football player but he will be a great one if he keeps it up like he's going."
--TE Brandon Manumaleuna had a 40-yard pass reception, which isn't easy for someone weighing 288 pounds. That's more receiving yardage than he had in the previous 11 games combined.
--TE Antonio Gates' day was odd in that he had but one catch of minus-one yard. His showing was especially glaring in that Tony Gonzalez caught 10 passes for 140 yards. "They tried to go to him every play," Chargers CB Quentin Jammer said. "One guy can't get it done. One guy can't beat a team."
--The Chargers are now plus-14 in the turnover ratio, which is second in the league.
--RB LaDainian Tomlinson gave praise to his blockers up front. "Once we got it going, that fire was in their eyes that they can dominate the line of scrimmage like we haven't all year," he said.
PLAYER PERSONNEL NOTES
--C Nick Hardwick drew praise for his work. His mending foot was extremely sore after the game but he should be fine for Sunday.
--DT Jamal Williams sprained an ankle Sunday. He probably won't practice Wednesday (he seldom does anyway) but will play Sunday.
--RT Jeromey Clary will remain in the starting lineup, after replacing Shane Olivea.
--RB Darren Sproles (knee) might be limited in practice but should go Sunday.
--DE Luis Castillo (ankle) is still two-to-three weeks from playing.
--OLB Shawne Merriman is a half-sack shy of reaching the double-digit mark in each of his first three seasons.
--DE Igor Olshansky has had consecutive strong games, and that includes pass rushing, which isn't his specialty.
--RB LaDainian Tomlinson passed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the seventh consecutive season.