The San Diego Chargers have released veteran RB LaDainian Tomlinson,
the team announced Monday.
Team president Dean Spanos met with Tomlinson Monday and informed Tomlinson of the move.
"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," Spanos said. "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."
Tomlinson owns or shares 28 team records, including career rushing yards, yards from scrimmage and touchdowns. During his nine seasons in San Diego, Tomlinson won two rushing titles (2006 and '07), set an NFL single-season record for touchdowns in a season (31 in '06) and racked up 12,490 rushing yards, the eighth-highest total in NFL history. He was the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 2006 and earned Pro Bowl honors five times.
"I was fortunate to be the offensive coordinator here during LT's rookie year in 2001 and it didn't take long to realize that we were dealing with a special player and a special individual," Chargers head coach Norv Turner said. "And when I returned to the Chargers in 2007, I was proud to be a part of his second NFL rushing title. LT is a true pro. He's one of the greatest runners this game has ever seen and words can't do justice to the things he's accomplished on and off the field."
In addition to his long list of achievements on the gridiron, Tomlinson's tireless efforts in the community have benefited thousands of individuals in San Diego as well as his native Texas. In 2006, LT received the NFL Man of the Year Award in recognition of his numerous philanthropic efforts.
"It's fitting that LT's and LaTorsha's charity is called the ‘Touching Lives Foundation' because that's exactly what they've done," Spanos said. "So many people have been positively affected by their generosity. Our community has been fortunate to have them."
Tomlinson joined the Chargers in 2001 as the fifth overall selection in the NFL Draft. The Chargers originally held the top pick in the draft, but swung a trade with the Atlanta Falcons, who moved up to take quarterback Michael Vick. The Chargers nervously waited as Tomlinson fell to the fifth spot where they enthusiastically brought him into their fold.
"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," Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said. "He's a future Hall of Famer. My only regret is that he leaves San Diego without a Super Bowl ring."
Tomlinson was one of 53 men recognized as the Greatest All-Time Chargers during the team's 50th anniversary celebration last season and he was recently named to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2000s. His 138 career rushing touchdowns are the second most in NFL history and his 153 total touchdowns ranks third in league annals.
"I look forward to the time when we'll see his number retired and see him inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame," Spanos said. "I can't say enough about how much I've enjoyed being around LT and LaTorsha the last nine years."
The move didn't come to much of a surprise since Tomlinson's numbers took a steady decline the past two seasons.
Tomlinson, who turns 31 in June, had two years left on his contract. He was set to make $3 million in base salary in 2010. A league source said that $1 million of Tomlinson's base salary was guaranteed, so the team will still owe him some money. Tomlinson had a $2 million roster bonus which was believed to be due on the first day the new league year on March 5.
Tomlinson should find work with a team that utilizes a power running game. Teams that could have interest for a No. 2 back based on need include the Cincinnati Bengals and New York Jets.
With veteran RB Larry Johnson unsigned, the Bengals could use another veteran to back up starting RB Cedric Benson.
On paper, the Jets don't seem to need another veteran back, but if they don't pay Thomas Jones his $3 million roster bonus by March 9, he'll become a free agent.
Tomlinson's release leaves the Chargers without a starter at running back. No. 2 RB Darren Sproles will become a restricted free agent on March 5 if a new CBA isn't agreed upon.
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