LaDainian Tomlinson, the sixth-leading rusher in NFL history, is talking to the New York Jets about the future after nothing came of his talks with the Vikings.
What happens to running backs when they turn 30? That’s a rhetorical question if there ever was one but do their skills erode to such a degree that they are no longer serviceable? Was there a game, a quarter, or even a play that stole their magic and turned them from a god of the gridiron into a mere mortal?
Physically, they look the same. The number on their jersey hasn’t changed nor does a red cross mysteriously materialize on their helmet. Intellectually, we must assume they are sound and their faculties are still intact. So what actually happens? The simple answer is, their body can no longer execute the split second commands that their brain demands.
Nostalgia aside, does LaDainian Tomlinson have anything left in the tank? As a starting running back the answer is no. However, can he be the difference between you winning and losing your paycheck on the ticket you bought on the Jets to win the AFC East? You can bet on it!
The Jets are a team that is on the rise but they’ve got those pesky Patriots always standing in their way. They continue to retool a team that was about as good as it has been in years but if they get Tomlinson, they add a whole new dimension to a team that led the NFL in rushing last year. Tomlinson can not only spell rookie sensation Shonn Greene but more importantly allows Mark Sanchez a safety valve coming out of the backfield as Tomlinson is a superb route runner and still has the soft hands to catch anything thrown his way.
Defenses around the NFL will have to take note and the AFC East crown may just change hands if Tomlinson decides green and white are now his favorite colors.
Ladanian Tomlinson is the latest example of pure natural talent and God given ability succumbing to the merciless hand of Father Time. When superstars are in their prime they have no equal. Superlatives abound and the hero worship of both the fans and the media spirals so out of control it becomes commonplace to rank the newest big thing as the best of his generation if not among the greatest who ever played the game.
The coronation isn’t complete until the media begins reporting how smart, savvy, funny, generous, kind or any other adjective that further adds to the mystique. Naturally this creates the illusion that this man is not only gifted athletically but spiritually, emotionally, intellectually and there’s a better than even money chance he calls his mother every day.
Only a few stand the test of time after the cheers have faded and their face no longer routinely graces the covers of magazines and newspapers. Running backs like Jim Brown, Walter “Sweetness” Payton, Barry Sanders, Emmit Smith and the reviled but nonetheless supremely talented O.J. Simpson are universally acknowledged to be in anyone’s top ten list.
Today, many would say no but once his shadow fades and he hangs up his cleats for good, only then will we really know where Tomlinson sits among the pantheon of the greatest ever to juke, jive and steamroll their way into the endzones of the NFL and the hearts of football fans everywhere. Until then, did you hear that Adrian Peterson reads a book everyday and donates his entire paycheck to the United Way?
Vikings fans who want LT on board will be happy to see NFLshop.com is leaning their way. The site already is selling LT jerseys with a yet-to-be-determined number. For a mere $80 bucks, you can get one. What’s unclear is whether the NFL site is jumping the gun or breaking news.