Chargers Cut L.T. After 9 Years
An era has officially ended.
LaDainian Tomlinson was cut.
Yes, that L.T., the record-setting former MVP whose resume from nine seasons with the San Diego Chargers includes two NFL rushing titles and 153 touchdowns, third-most in NFL history.
The boom, lowered after Tomlinson, 30, met Monday with team President Dean Spanos, wasn't totally unexpected as the back recently predicted he had played his last game as a Charger.
"It's sad," said Shannon Sharpe, CBS analyst and former NFL tight end. "He doesn't want you to feel sorry for him, but it just shows that the likelihood of spending your career with one NFL team is probably 10 percent.
"The moment Joe Montana left San Francisco (in 1993), all bets were off. Nobody's safe. Even though L.T. saw it coming, it still hurts. It's like being told you're not good enough for them."
Tomlinson rushed for a career-low 730 yards in 2009. He battled injuries in recent years while the offense became dominated by a passing game powered by quarterback Philip Rivers.
Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said there was no thought of asking Tomlinson - due a $2 million bonus in March and $3 million salary in 2010 - to take a pay cut or reduced role.
"It's time to look to the future and move on," Smith said. "But I've admired the type of person and player he's been for us."
Said Spanos: "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."
Tomlinson, unavailable for comment, still wants to play. Agent Tom Condon said the timing allows for potential deals to be discussed at the NFL scouting combine this week. Condon won't concede that Tomlinson, eighth on the NFL's career rushing list with 12,490 yards, must accept a backup or specialty role.
"I think we'll find out a lot more about that as we go through this," Condon said. "He expects to make a significant contribution."
Said Sharpe: "When your skills diminish, you're the last one to see it. If he's honest, he'll ask himself: Can I really go somewhere else and come off the bench?"
Sharpe won't blame Tomlinson for trying.
"If he goes someplace else, he's going to be LaDainian," Sharpe said. "L.T. stays in San Diego. Just like when Art Modell bolted Cleveland and left the Browns' colors and marks, L.T.'s moniker stays behind."