L.T. Ready to Soar Once More

RB LaDainian Tomlinson (Harry How/Getty)

LaDainian Tomlinson is ready for a dream season. That would be in stark contrast to how his last one ended on a cold day in New England.

"It was a nightmare," LaDainian Tomlinson said. "You just want it over as quick as possible."

The Chargers would love a quick return trip to the AFC Championship Game after falling short against the Patriots last January. To do so, they need a healthy Tomlinson. It looks like they have it.

Tomlinson's day was cut short when he aggravated a sprained knee against the Patriots. He caught some flak for sitting on the bench for the game, huddled against the elements and trying to stiff-arm disappointment instead of rival tacklers.

When the games start this season, the memory of a battered and bummed Tomlinson on the sidelines will fade.

But Tomlinson's memory is long and he won't forget the verbal abuse sent his direction for not trying to re-enter the game -- although he was hurt.


RB LaDainian Tomlinson
Doug Pensinger/Getty

Coach Norv Turner knows how Tomlinson feels. Turner was blasted when taking over for the Chargers as their head coach before last year. That criticism gathered momentum when the team started 1-3.

"When someone says something and it is fair, it doesn't bother you," said Turner, of Tomlinson's detractors. "But when someone says something that you don't think it is fair, you would probably consider the source and he probably has a different opinion of some of the people that questioned him than he did before."

Turner speculated Tomlinson's psyche was hurt that day as well.

"Hey, I don't care what the injury is, it's mental, too," Turner said. "You're fighting to go to the Super Bowl and he had been playing for that game for seven years and all of sudden you are knocked out of the game. He is human."

Quarterback Philip Rivers gets grief for showing his human side when he jaws with opponents and fans. Rivers said much was made about nothing when Tomlinson was sitting on the bench on a day when the temperature was in the single digit.

"Any time they catch something they will run with it and something gets all blown out and I thought that was the case there," Rivers said. "They panned over to him when he was sitting on the sidelines -- it was zero degrees and we were on defense -- and we were all sitting there for the most part.

"He was up, encouraging the guys when we were out there on offense. It wasn't like it was a bright, sunny day and he was sitting there with his helmet on."

It's "game on" for Tomlinson and the Chargers -- neither can wait to start a journey they hope takes them back to a place where they were just four quarters shy of a Super Bowl.

CAMP CALENDAR: Rookies and selected veterans report July 20 and have a practice the next day. The full squad reports July 24 and practices on July 25. The Chargers break training camp Aug. 23.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Former Chargers S Terrence Kiel, 27, was killed in a one-car accident on July 4. Kiel was a former second-round pick of the team before being released before last season because of numerous incidents with police.

--WR Legedu Naanee is looking to expand on his rookie learning experience. "This time around I know not just the route, but also the adjustment to it and what the guy next to me is doing. Knowing all that helps."

--Kudos to the Spanos family -- which owns the Chargers -- for footing the bill once again for the San Diego High School all-star football game.

--CB Antoine Cason was among the rookies taking part in the NFL's symposium recently at La Costa Resort and Spa -- the league's version of scaring the rookies straight. "It's just an eye-opener and it makes you start thinking about different situations more and more," said the Chargers' top pick. "Sometimes, it gets you speechless."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "They let us know what can happen if you're in bad situation and that is the biggest key." -- CB Antoine Cason on the lessons he learned at the NFL Rookie Symposium.

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