The career of former Chargers and Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson came to an end on Monday with the running back hanging up the cleats on 11 storied seasons in the NFL. Tomlinson signed a one-day contract with San Diego so he could retire with the Chargers.
Arguably the best running back of his generation, Tomlinson twice led the NFL in rushing and was a Pro Bowl selection five times. He was named to the first team of the NFL's "All-Decade" team for the 2000s. When Tomlinson left San Diego two years ago to join the Jets, he said that the topic of him coming back and retiring a Charger was initially broached.
"Without question, I said 'Yes, because I always felt like I was a Charger," Tomlinson said. "It was special and I always felt in my heart that I was a Charger."
Tomlinson came to the Jets seeking his first ever Super Bowl ring with a team that had made the AFC Championship game a season before. In 2010, Tomlinson played in 15 regular season games for the Jets, only missing the meaningless regular season finale against Buffalo while rushing for 914 yards and six touchdowns. The Jets again returned to the AFC Championship game that year, but they followed the success of that campaign with an 8-8 record in 2011. Tomlinson rushed for a career-low 280 yards in 14 games last season.
He referred to his New York experience as "two great years in New York, chasing the dream."
In a statement released by the team, Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum praised Tomlinson's commitment to the team.
"During my time around LaDainian, he never took one day for granted when it came to any aspect of his performance. His commitment drew his teammates to him and elevated everyone that came in contact with him. On the field, he was a dynamic, versatile player who was everything you could ask for in a running back." Tannenbaum said.
"He could significantly affect the outcome of a game as a ball carrier, but also was superior as a receiver and in pass protection. He had a positive impact on our organization and I am grateful for his time with the New York Jets."
It was clear after the NFL Draft in April that the Jets weren't bringing Tomlinson back, especially after using a sixth-round pick on Baylor running back Terrance Ganaway. But the writing was on the green and white wall for Tomlinson long before that.
Shortly after the season ended, Tomlinson was critical of the Jets in a January appearance on Showtime's "Inside the NFL." He called Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez "a bit pampered," talked openly about the team's divided locker room and said that head coach Rex Ryan's constant talking-up of his team to the media put unwarranted pressure on the Jets.
"Every week if you're calling out a team on certain things, I think it puts a little extra on your team," Tomlinson said on Showtime. "Guys really want to go out there and say 'Let's shut this guy up. Let's shut the Jets up.'"
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for all your offseason news.