Tomlinson to call it quits after 11 NFL seasons

LaDainian Tomlinson’s brilliant NFL career will officially end

when he ceremoniously rejoins the San Diego Chargers for a day.

The Chargers said Sunday that Tomlinson, who was the NFL MVP in

2006 with San Diego and is the fifth-leading rusher in league

history, will re-sign with the team on Monday and then announce his

retirement.

Tomlinson was drafted in the first round by San Diego in 2001

and became one of the biggest stars in team history, helping revive

the Chargers after the devastating Ryan Leaf years and turning them

into a force in the AFC West. He spent the first nine years of his

career in San Diego. He played the last two seasons with the New

York Jets.

Tomlinson won the MVP in ’06, when he set NFL single-season

records with 31 touchdowns, including 28 rushing, and 186 points.

He ran for a career-high 1,815 yards that year, giving him the

first of two straight league rushing titles.

Tomlinson finishes his career with 13,684 yards and 145

touchdowns.

Tomlinson spoke at the public memorial service for Junior Seau

on May 11, drawing the biggest cheers of the night.

Perhaps his most memorable moment with the Chargers came on Dec.

10, 2006, when he swept into the end zone late in a game against

the Denver Broncos for his third touchdown of the afternoon to

break Shaun Alexander’s year-old record of 28 touchdowns.

His linemen hoisted him onto their shoulders and carried him

toward the sideline, with Tomlinson holding the ball high in his

right hand and waving his left index finger, while the fans chanted

”L.T.! L.T.!” and ”MVP! MVP!”

When the Chargers released him in February 2010, quarterback

Philip Rivers said: ”I had the best view in the house on some of

those awesome runs he made.”

Tomlinson had said recently that he might continue his career if

the right opportunity was available. Some fans hoped the Chargers

would bring back Tomlinson as a third-down back, but that appeared

impossible as long as general manager A.J. Smith was in

control.

Tomlinson had a less-than-smooth separation from the Chargers.

The slashing, dazzling runs came less frequently and Tomlinson was

slowing down because of injuries and age. He became less and less

the face of the franchise as his role was reduced in a pass-happy

offense. The Chargers would have been on the hook for a $2 million

roster bonus, along with a $5 million salary.

Days after his release from the Chargers, Tomlinson held a

tearful news conference at the suburban country club where he and

his wife lived.

L.T. also had a public tiff with Smith.

A year before the Chargers released Tomlinson, Smith came under

fire for mocking a statement Tomlinson made about wanting to stay

in San Diego.

Tomlinson’s squeaky-clean image took a hit during the AFC

championship game loss at New England in January 2008. Forced out

early with a sprained knee, Tomlinson watched glumly from the

sideline, huddled in a parka and his face hidden behind the tinted

visor on his helmet.

The Chargers were less than truthful in giving an overly

optimistic prognosis about his injury during the game, announcing

that he had a ”sore knee and can return.” That caused fans and

commentators to question his toughness.

Tomlinson said afterward that it was obvious he couldn’t play.

Coach Norv Turner got miffed when a reporter asked what Rivers and

Antonio Gates should think when they played hurt but Tomlinson

didn’t.

”That’s the stupidest thing you could ask,” Turner said. ”The

guy was not able to go. The doctors and trainers said he couldn’t

go.”

Burned by that experience, Tomlinson – always the most brutally

honest employee in the Chargers’ organization – was forthright with

the media when he sustained a serious groin injury in the 2008

regular-season finale. Tomlinson’s honesty caused Smith to

bristle.

That groin injury sidelined Tomlinson in a divisional-round

playoff loss to Pittsburgh, the first time he missed a game due to

injury in his pro career. He had been slowed earlier that season by

a toe injury.

He sprained his right ankle in the 2009 season opener against

Oakland and missed the next two games.

He ran for 914 yards in 2010 with the Jets, but carried only 75

times for 280 yards last season, playing mostly on passing

downs.