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PREVIOUS SPORTS
• Sideline: Yes, Non–Conference Games DO Count
• NCAA Preview 2009
• Sideline: Time For The Talking To Stop
• Sideline: In Memory of Air McNair
• Sideline: Will Goodell Hand Out Hard Time?
• Sideline: Marshall's Not Joshing
• NFL Draft: No Rush To Judgment
• NFL Draft Analysis 2009 (Part 2)
• Sideline: NFL Draft Thoughts (Part 2)
• Sideline: NFL Draft Thoughts
• Sideline: Will Play For Food
• Sideline: Wonderlic Scores
• Sideline: Manning and Sanchez
• Sideline: 2010 Leagues Sci–fi, or Fantasy? / March Madness
• Sideline: Break Out The Brackets
• Sideline: LaDainian Tomlinson On The Record
• Sideline: The Incredible Sulk Continues
• Sideline: Guildford Heat Fired Up
• Sideline: Super Bowl thoughts from the Valley of the Sun
• Sideline: I know I came in here for something
• Sideline: College Football National Signing Day
• Sideline: 27 Points — 27 Super Bowl thoughts
• Sideline: An Epic QB Matchup?
• Sideline: Appreciating Arizona for What They Were
• Sideline: NFL Divisional Weekend Preview
• Sideline: Bowl Season Hangover
• Sideline: Six weeks Later
• Sideline: Wildcard Weekend Preview
• Sideline: Santa's Sackings
• Sideline: A Weis Decision ...for Now
• Sideline: Eye on the Ticker
• Sideline: Lions — An Anagram of Losin
• Sideline: Ready for the Turkey
• Sideline: Making it to the Big Dance
• Sideline: Brighter Days Ahead for Chargers?
• Sideline: Unnecessary Hits To The Pocket / Upset: BYU
• Sideline: Romo's Pause / Seattle Seahawks
• Sideline: Weekend Prep: Red River and More
• Sideline: College Football's 'Crossroads' Weekend
• Sideline: Gramatical Error
• Sideline: Turning The Page
• Sideline: So Cal 'Quizzed
• Sideline: 3rd Tuesday Panic / Forté Yard Dash
• Sideline: Two and Oh; Oh and Two
• Sideline: No More NCAAffeine
• Sideline: Week 1 College Football
• Sideline: How To Spell Heisman / Chad Ocho Cinco
• Sideline: A Second Slice
• Sideline: The Favre story STILL won't go away
• Sideline: Olympic Notes / Ricky's Still Relevant
• Sideline: Committee Meetings
• Sideline: Let the QB Battles Begin
• Sideline: Slinging The Slinger — More Favre
• Interview: Clint Dempsey
• Sideline: Welcome to the 2008 season
• Sideline: Plus One
• 2008 NFL Draft Review
• Sideline: Draft: The Morning After
• Sideline: Draft: Thinking the Unthinkable
• Sideline: Draft: Ready For The Long Haul
• Sideline: Sofa–bound Sport
• Sideline: Post–Winter Wonderland
• Sideline: Six Impossible Things
• Sideline: Brady's Misdirection Play
• Sideline: Colorful Language
• Sideline: Let the Romo–bashing begin
• Sideline: Bowl Bites: The Wrap
• Sideline: All About The Coaches
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 3
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 2
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 1
• Sideline: Coach Situations Vacant
• Sideline: For Some, The Playoffs Are Now
• Sideline: A Certain Lack Of Welcome
• Sideline: Unrelated Notes
• Sideline: Two Thanksgiving thoughts
• Sideline: Halftime: NFC
• Sideline: Halftime: AFC
• Sideline: London / A Tale of Two Chads / Intimidation
• Sideline: Damp Squib / Other London Notes
• Sideline: Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em / Dolphins – The Aftermath
• Sideline: The Dolphins Did What?
• Sideline: Notes on the Defenses
• Sideline: Habits to be Broken
• Sideline: Overtime
• Sideline: This Week's Starters
• Sideline: USF: Covering The Spread / Fantastic Football
• Sideline: Grossman: The Final Act? / McNabb, the Epilogue
• Sideline: Eagles QB in Slight Controversy
• Sideline: Leftwich's Parting Gift / Boos cruise
• Sideline: Notre Dame M.I.A.
• Sideline: Looking Beyond NFL Wk. 1
• Sideline: Best Hope For Heisman
• Sideline: Coaching Hot Seats / AP Poll Feeling ’Appy
• Sideline: The NFL’s Prime Cuts
• Sideline: Michigan Falls to Killer Apps
• Sideline: Look Out Couch / The Taint's On You, Bud
SPORTS

SIDELINE
Observations, Opinion & Occasional Silliness by Richard L Gale

LT Now On The Record About The Record
March 18, 2009

PREVIOUS SIDELINE NEXT SIDELINE

When I spoke to LaDainian Tomlinson last summer, he was in a relaxed mood. We chatted off–topic about cars and cooks, but when I moved the conversation to the subject of record–chasing, he wasn't eager to go there. But he humored me. When I asked about Emmitt Smith's rushing record, he said that he tried not to think about it, that it could be a distraction. When I asked him if he wanted to play as long as Smith, he offered an emphatic 'no':

"Emmett played, what? fifteen, sixteen years? I don't want to play that long. That’s too long."

While Tomlinson didn't do a 180 turn during the recent contract discussions with the Chargers, there's been an evident course adjustment. Where once he told everyone that Smith's record wasn't his goal, observe his answer to a recent gathering of journalists:

"Before, I never really thought about [the record], but the closer I get to it... I don't want to finish up and say 'Why didn't I try to get it'?"

Some simple math is enlightening. Here's the cumulative difference, year–on–year, between Smith's yardage and LT's:

After 1 year: LT +299
After 2 years: LT +419
After 3 years: LT +348
After 4 years: LT +197
After 5 years: LT +175
After 6 years: LT +217
After 7 years: LT +487
After 8 years: LT +523

For one thing, LaDainian continues to out–pace Smith. And over the past three years — when some people have been questioning whether LT is slowing down — he's actually been pulling away from Smith. Year eight wasn't great for LT with a career low 1110 yards, but Smith himself had one of his poorest seasons in his own year eight, with only 1074. Thereafter, Smith added 7121 yards to his career tally.

And it's what remains of Tomlinson's career which has been the debate. For San Diego, it's been a matter of evaluating how much LT has left in the tank as he approaches 30. In the past Tomlinson has hinted that he wouldn't want to play beyond 2011, and such talk might have been working against him this past year, contributing to the sense of a player entering the final chapter of his career.

Tomlinson's acceptance of this challenge to chase the record is more than a change of heart, it is a fight back against that sense of slowdown.

If LT is to go after Smith's record, Tomlinson is looking at 5 more years in the NFL at least, and most importantly, five more years as the workhorse starter at a time when the NFL trend is towards shared carries. It isn't so much that LT himself needs to focus on the record; what he needs is for everybody else to get focused on it, to mentally re–invest in him as the franchise back. That's why LT is more willing to discuss the longevity issue. It isn't just a matter of yardage, it's a matter of money.

Discussions of Tomlinson's tenure at the Chargers may have less to do with yardage than TDs. In the pass–happy NFL, it is the threat of the run that is all–important, to keep defenses honest. While his rushing average was down from 5.2 to 3.8 yards a pop over the past three years, LTs production slid most in touchdowns, from a record 28 to a mere 11 last season.

LaDainian's pursuit of Emmitt's record will, for 2009 at least, be as much about the pursuit of the endzone.

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