Ready to Revert to All-Pro Form
RB LaDainian Tomlinson (Kevin Terrell/Getty)
RB LaDainian Tomlinson (Kevin Terrell/Getty)

Posted Aug 3, 2009
scout.com


LaDainian Tomlinson wasted little time showing he was fit. Tomlinson kicked off the Chargers' first week of training camp with numerous dazzling runs, showing the change-of-direction and burst that have made him among the NFL's all-time elite running backs.

"It's good to be back and I'm excited," LaDainian Tomlinson said. "And everything that go in between."

Tomlinson carries some baggage into his ninth season. He is coming off career-lows last season in yards and carries. He's out to show he's healthy after suffering two injuries last season. And he blew out 30 candles on his birthday cake in the offseason, reaching an age which few backs can successfully stiff-arm Father Time.

And while he did rush for 1,110 yards and 11 touchdowns, he hears the whispers that he is on the back side of his career and he lets it slide off his backside.

"I'm not hurt at all," said Tomlinson, who has 11,760 rushing yards, 3,801 receiving yards for a combined 141 touchdowns. "That is the perception not only for me but running backs throughout history. That is something you fight against every day and every year.

"Not only me, but every guy at certain positions there is a number or stigma or whatever you want to call it that says you should be old at this position at this point of your career. At running back, it says 30.

"So my challenge is to prove them wrong and it is certainly going to be a heck of a challenge and I'm certainly looking forward to it and in the long run I think it'll help me out."


RB LaDainian Tomlinson
Harry How/Getty
What Tomlinson, a five-time Pro Bowler, means is that he's ratchet-up his legendary offseason workouts another notch. With the naysayers' predictions ringing in his ears, Tomlinson has attack the time leading up to training camp with vengeance and intelligence.

"I think I am a little more focused, a little more disciplined," Tomlinson said. "In order to perform, you have to be discipline and obviously you have to be up for the challenge. So I think obviously I'm more focused whenever I am challenged."

Tomlinson knew something wasn't right with his body after last season. He had limped through an early-season toe injury then tore an adductor at the end of season.

"I spent some time with a bio-mechanics doctor to just kind of get myself back together - I was so messed up to be honest with you," Tomlinson said. "My body just wasn't put together probably - getting hurt, the toe, the (groin) adductor - and so I spent some time putting myself back together and then getting back strong. I think that was important. It went well.

"I do feel stronger and I'm as lean as I've been, but I still got the weight with me - that tells me how strong I am. And I have put some more time in the weight room during some different workouts. Kind of what I think was getting back to the basics so that is where I am."

And where he is is a place where the aches and pains are few -- for now anyway.

"I'm completely recovered; didn't have any setbacks," Tomlinson said of his offseason. "I was out there at minicamps, OTAs and didn't have any problems so I knew that when we got to training camp that I would pretty much be healthy. That kind of gave me a starting point, minicamp, to see where I was. I wasn't quite 100 percent at minicamp but knew I was working my way toward being 100 percent and now I am."

Coach Norv Turner has said if Tomlinson is feeling good, he feels good about calling his number often.

"We will do what we have to do to win football games and L.T. is a big part of this offense when we are going good," Turner said. "There is no question (Darren) Sproles showed he can complement L.T., but L.T. is going to end up with enough carries, as I've said, to be a contender for the rushing title. I think that is when he is at his best."

Just maybe Tomlinson, a five-time Pro Bowler, is playing with a chip on his shoulder pads.

"A (ticked) off L.T. is a good thing," center Nick Hardwick said.

Tomlinson doesn't disagree.


LBs James Holt, Anthony Felder and Larry English
Kevin Terrell/Getty
--Larry English is signed and now he needs to seal the deal of earning playing time.

The Chargers' first-round pick missed the first three rookie practices and three full-squad workouts as he haggled with the club over a contract. He secured his five-year pact which could guarantee him $10 million and hit the field for Saturday's second session.

The Chargers, though, are expecting him to hit the ground running. Despite having two dynamite pass-rushers in Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips, the team hasn't been shy about announcing English could be in the mix.

"I'm happy that I wasn't out a long period and that I'm here relatively early and read to get to work," he said.

The learning curve for English could be steep. He is coming from Northern Illinois and being plopped on a unit which is expected to be playing in the Super Bowl.

"I did come from a smaller-market school, but I'm happy to be here and I'm excited to be with the Chargers and represent the Chargers the right way."

Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera has hinted that English, Merriman and Phillips could all be on the field in certain packages.

But first English has to get up to speed and he's trying to accelerate that process by leaning on Merriman and Phillips.

"I'd really like to focus on what I can do and the ways I can improve, more than comparing myself to other guys," he said. "The nice thing about being around such a great group of linebackers is that I get to watch these guys every day, pick up some of the things they do well and make those part of my game."

Among the training camp chores which come with being an NFL rookie is carrying a teammate's helmet on and off the field. For English, that means being Phillips' caddy.

"It's just a little thing you have to go through as a rookie," Phillips said. We don't haze anyone and we won't do anything too crazy, but we'll give him a little bit of hell."

Feeling the fire could be rival quarterbacks if these three can generate a consistent rush.

CAMP CALENDAR:

Aug. 5: Open practice at Qualcomm Stadium
Aug. 8: Open practice at Qualcomm Stadium
Aug. 12: Open practice at Qualcomm Stadium
Aug. 27: Camp closes

NOTES, QUOTES


QB Philip Rivers
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty
--QB Philip Rivers was sad to see the Padres trade ace Jake Peavy. The two Alabama natives are friends. "I became a Padres fan after being here, but I'm more of a Jake Peavy fan these days," Rivers said. "I've talked to him a few times with texts back and forth. It's a tough deal, but I guess we all knew it would happen eventually. I know he'd love to play here his whole career, but he's a competitor and he'll represent the White Sox well." Peavy wore a Chargers T-shirt and cap to his last press conference in San Diego.

--After winning the MVP in 2006, LaDainian Tomlinson has a tough time satisfying his critics. "Everybody wants to compare him to 2006," said LG Kris Dielman, of the year Tomlinson rushed for 1,815 yards and collected an NFL-record 31 touchdowns. "But that was like Barry Bonds hitting 73 home runs in a season. It wasn't going to happen again."

--LB Shawne Merriman showed up at camp sporting a blue Mohawk. "I got a little Chargers spirit going on right now," Merriman said. "I'm happy to get back on the field, happy to get back in the pads, happy to put a helmet back on. That's the way I feel right now -- just excited."

--WR Malcom Floyd continues to make sensational catches in camp practices.

--TE Charles Davis, a 6-foot-6, 260-pounder from Purdue, was signed.

--WR Kassim Osgood is sporting a bright, blond dye job with his hair. "You have to mix it up during camp," Osgood said. "You have to keep things fresh."

--Training camp has a different feel with fans not being allowed to attend. The team said a water main break in February hasn't been repaired and it presents a safety hazard for the fans. "We enjoy seeing the fans and the support they give," Rivers said. "They can bring a certain energy to the practice, or it can work the other way. This allows us to really focus and zero in without distractions when it's just us out here. I know the fans miss being out here and we miss them to an extent, but the way everything worked out allows us to zero in, stay focused and have a good camp."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Anything less than a Super Bowl championship. It doesn't exist for us." -- TE Antonio Gates on the Chargers' goal this season.

INJURY REPORT: So far the Chargers have avoided the injury bug -- but it is very early in camp.



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