LaDainian Tomlinson Released by San Diego Chargers

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Photo from SD Dirk via Flickr

Photo from SD Dirk via Flickr

Well, we all knew it was coming; but now it’s official. After nine years with the San Diego Chargers, LaDainian Tomlinson was officially released on February 22, 2010.

I wrote some time ago that this was obviously imminent. Tomlinson, who turned 30 years old last summer, was due a $2 million roster bonus in March. His age, and the fact his production had fallen off in the past two years as he struggled with injuries, (and the O-line has been depleted at times as well) running for only 730 yards on 3.3 yards per carry in 2009 were factors. And he has clearly been frustrated as the offense had evolved to depend far less on the run and his role diminished. But the biggest issue were clearly the comments he made after the playoff loss to the New York Jets, when he complained about his role on the team and more importantly, the state of the Chargers locker room in terms of player focus, accountability and character. After that it was a done-deal.

Those of us who’ve covered the team for many years clearly know; you simply don’t say negative things about the San Diego Chargers – regardless of how true they may be.

The Chargers made the announcement on their website, and took the politically correct approach, as well they should. Chargers’ president, Dean Spanos wrote on the Chargers’ website, “This is a part of the business that I hate, and it’s particularly hard when you’re dealing with someone I consider a friend…Change involving great players is never easy. I respect LT as much or more than any player I’ve ever known. And no one appreciates his contributions to this organization more than I do. That is why this is such a difficult announcement for me to make.”

Chargers’ general manager A.J. Smith also took the politically correct route, calling it “a tough day, a sad day for everybody in the organization…It’s always tough to part ways with great players who helped you win games. It’s not a pleasant day, but we’re working through it.”

“He’s just been a great player for us,” Smith said. “Also, the character, integrity, work ethic, along with his talent, have been unbelievable. He’s a Hall of Famer right now. He will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.”

While a bit cranky in the last year or so, LaDainian Tomlinson has been nothing but a class act during his tenure with the ‘Bolts’. He won rushing titles in 2006 and 2007, and set the NFL single-season record with 31 touchdowns in 2006 and was a key player in the transformation of the Chargers from a losing franchise into a legitimate playoff club.

Tomlinson ranks eighth on the all-time rushing list with 12,490 yards. His 138 career rushing touchdowns rank second, and his 153 total touchdowns rank third. He was the NFL’s MVP in 2006, when he set league single-season records with 31 touchdowns, including 28 rushing, and 186 points. “When he came here in 2001, we were a struggling franchise,” Spanos said. “It’s clear that we are where we are today because of him. He truly has been the heart and soul of our team all these years, and just done an outstanding job and helped turn this franchise around into a winning franchise. It couldn’t have been done without him.”

He will be missed…

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