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LaDainian Tomlinson released by San Diego Chargers

PRO FOOTBALL

Former league MVP won rushing titles in 2006 and '07 and set a single-season record with 31 touchdowns in '06, but role with Chargers had dwindled.

February 23, 2010|By Sam Farmer

LT is leaving town.

LaDainian Tomlinson, the All-Pro running back so famous he's known simply by his initials, was released by San Diego on Monday after nine seasons with the Chargers. He was due a bonus of $2 million in March, and was coming off career lows of 730 yards in 223 carries and a 3.3-yard average.

"This is the part of the business that I hate. . . ," said Chargers President Dean Spanos, who met Monday with Tomlinson and informed him of the decision. "Change involving great players is never easy. I respect LT as much or more than any player I've ever known."

Tomlinson, 30, won NFL rushing titles in 2006 and '07, set single-season records with 31 touchdowns and 186 points in '06 when he won the league's most-valuable-player award, and amassed 12,490 yards rushing, the eighth-highest total in league history.

He joined the Chargers in 2001 as the fifth selection in the draft, taken after San Diego traded the top pick to Atlanta, which the Falcons used on Michael Vick.

"There were a lot of eyebrows raised when we made that trade, but LT proved to be everything we thought he'd be and more," said A.J. Smith, Chargers general manager. "He's a future Hall of Famer. My only regret is that he leaves San Diego without a Super Bowl ring."

Tomlinson was not immediately available for comment.

Last summer, he told The Times that he still considered himself the most complete running back in the league, and he was miffed by the suggestion by NFL great Jim Brown that Minnesota's Adrian Peterson was currently better.

"Talking to Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, all these great athletes, I can relate to their mind-set," Tomlinson told The Times last summer. "I wonder sometimes why I think the way I think. Am I strange because I think I'm a different breed of guy? That I'm not going to get old? I'm not going to slow down? Am I different for thinking that? But they think the same way."

But Tomlinson was hobbled by an ankle injury in the opener and saw his role with the team dwindle even when he returned to health.

He was due to earn about $5 million next season, far more than he is likely to make if or when he signs with his next team.

Chargers Coach Norv Turner called Tomlinson "one of the greatest runners this game has ever seen."

"Words can't do justice," Turner added, "to the things he's accomplished on and off the field."

Former Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts said he expects Tomlinson ultimately to join him in Canton.

"He's a Hall of Famer, and I think anything you say after that is redundant or irrelevant," Fouts said in a phone interview. "He's just performed at such a high level for such a long time. It's unfortunate that the yards have taken their toll, but that's life in the NFL."

Assuming he plans to play next season, Tomlinson could wind up somewhere within the AFC West, or perhaps with teams in need of running-back help.

"I don't think he's a 25-carry guy, although I'm sure he'd dispute that," Fouts said. "But given the right situation, the right team, you just don't know."

sam.farmer@latimes.com

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