Not about the numbers
Chargers' Tomlinson will only be satisfied with ring
Posted: Tuesday September 4, 2007 3:21PM; Updated: Tuesday September 4, 2007 4:51PM
You know who's been almost invisible this preseason? LaDainian Tomlinson.
Maybe it's because he hasn't played football. He eschews the preseason, wisely. He figures, why take a risk on taking the big hit in a game that doesn't count when you need to save the body for the 408 touches you're going to get during the season. Maybe it's because he's so gosh-darn consistent we're starting to take him for granted. Whatever. All I know is this: Barring a stunning reversal of skill or a colossal injury, we're going to be looking at one of the best five running backs of all time beginning Sunday when San Diego plays a very physical Chicago team at home to open Tomlinson's seventh season.
The consistency is ridiculous. His touches, per year, over the past six seasons: 398, 451, 413, 392, 390, 404.
His total yards over the past six years: 1,603, 2,172, 2,370, 1,776, 1,832, 2,323. With 111 total touchdowns.
At 28, he has 100 rushing touchdowns. After six seasons, Emmitt Smith had 96. (And Smith had only 16 over the next two seasons. He finished with 164.)
Speaking of numbers, though, Tomlinson doesn't want to speak of them.
"At this point of my career,'' he said over the phone, "I have only one goal. Not numbers, not stats. I want to win a championship. I've seen a lot of other players I respect win them, and it drives me. It's all I care about right now. The records ... you can have the records. I respect them, but I'm playing only to win.''
He wasn't through. "Do I want it? I want it more than anything. It's something you dream of growing up, winning the Super Bowl. I grew up a big Cowboys fan in Texas and watched them go from 1-15 to winning three Super Bowls. It's like I was a part of the team, I rooted for them so hard. I remember the Super Bowl titles, not the individual achievements. And I'm telling you, that's what drives me.''
I told Tomlinson that I'd been to Seattle's camp, and Shaun Alexander had set a couple of goals for the season -- to break Tomlinson's record of 31 touchdowns in a season, set last year, and to break Eric Dickerson's record of 2,105 rushing yards in a season. "Wow,'' he said. "I think it's possible. You'd need some luck, some breaks. But that's not going to be my intention. I just want to be a consistent player who helps his team win. Some years are going to be better than others; some years you're going to be in position to score more around the goal line, and some years you won't have those short-yardage chances. It all evens out. But it's not why I play.''