Tomlinson facing uncertain future in San Diego

G. Newman Lowrance/

G. Newman Lowrance/

For the second consecutive season, the Chargers were eliminated from the playoffs while star RB LaDainian Tomlinson watched from the sideline.

Tomlinson, who had no history of injury problems prior to the 2007 NFL Playoffs, suddenly can’t seem to stay healthy for the postseason. And with his 30th birthday looming on the horizon, there’s a chance that the Chargers could do the unthinkable and release Tomlinson.

San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Tim Sullivan would love to see the running back finish his career in San Diego but believes it might be inevitable for Tomlinson to move on.

I would love to be wrong about this. I would love to see Tomlinson finish his career with the Bolts and surpass Emmitt Smith as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. Few athletes have achieved so much and changed so little as has LT. Fewer still have done so without a whiff of scandal or a tendency to speak of themselves in the third person.

But five years have passed since Smith promised Tomlinson his career “would not be in vain,” and the Chargers have more holes now than they have had since at least 2005. There are acute needs on both the offensive and defensive lines, shortages in the secondary and at linebacker, in addition to the desirability of a coherent succession plan at running back.

When deploying finite dollars, the relative scarcity of raw materials is often the determining factor. Inasmuch as elite left tackles and productive pass rushers are rarer than running backs, Smith’s ultimate conclusion may be inescapable.

Sullivan mentions Smith, who also did the unthinkable and ended his career with the Arizona Cardinals.

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