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Running to the bank

No. 5 pick Tomlinson agrees to $38M deal with Chargers

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Posted: Wednesday August 22, 2001 1:31 AM
Updated: Wednesday August 22, 2001 6:01 PM
  LaDainian Tomlinson LaDainian Tomlinson ran for 22 touchdowns last season. Ezra ShawAllsport

By Don Banks, Sports Illustrated

LA JOLLA, Calif. -- San Diego Chargers first-round pick LaDainian Tomlinson is a hold out no more.

Tomlinson, the two-time NCAA rushing champion from Texas Christian University, agreed to terms with the Chargers late Tuesday night on a six-year, $38 million dollar deal that included a $10.5 million signing bonus.

Tomlinson missed the first 30 days of the Chargers' training camp, including two preseason games. But he is expected at the team's La Jolla-based University of California-San Diego training camp Wednesday.

Tomlinson, the fifth overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft, is the second-to-last NFL first-rounder to come to terms. Only Missouri defensive end Justin Smith, the No. 4 pick by Cincinnati, remains unsigned.

Tomlinson's deal came together late Tuesday after it appeared that no progress had been made in a negotiating session earlier in the day between agent Tom Condon and Chargers negotiator Ed McGuire.

Keep up with your favorite NFL team with CNNSI.com's training camps coverage, including Postcards from Training Camp by SI's Peter King, Burning Questions from SI's Don Banks and expert analysis from SI's Dr. Z and CNNSI.com's Pat Kirwan.
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  • "I'm happy for LT and I hope he's a great player for the Chargers," Condon said. "We renewed the effort this week, and today LT came in and visited us in Kansas City. We showed him what were going to try to do, and then he went back to San Diego."

    "There were compromises by both parties," Chargers negotiator Ed McGuire said. "It's unfortunate that it took this long. But sometimes it happens. We're just happy it's done."

    The Chargers' run offense has been among the league's worst in recent seasons -- they averaged just 66 yards a game last year -- and the 5-foot-10, 225-pound Tomlinson is being counted on to provide the inside, power running game that offensive coordinator Norv Turner's system requires. Turner has acknowledged that that Tomlinson's holdout will limit his role early in the season.

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    LaDainian Tomlinson thinks he still has enough time to prepare for the regular season.
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    Terrell Fletcher, the team's leading rusher in 2000 with a paltry 384 yards and three touchdowns, has not played in the first two preseason games due to hernia surgery. The first-team running back role has been filled by second-year man Ronney Jenkins, who last year was the team's kickoff return specialist. Jenkins has excelled this far, with 13 carries for a team-high 88 yards and two touchdowns, but at 5-11, 188 pounds, he is not considered lead back material over the course of 16 games.

    "He'll help us a ton, a ton," Chargers head coach Mike Riley said Tuesday. "He'll be the focal point for many years to come here. He's the reason we made the [Michael Vick] trade."

    The Chargers had the top pick in April's draft after finishing 1-15, but traded it to the Atlanta Falcons for the fifth pick, a 2001 third-round choice (which they used to select Tay Cody), a second-rounder in 2002 and wide receiver/return specialist Tim Dwight.

    The Chargers play host to St. Louis on Saturday night, and open their regular-season at home against Washington on Sept. 9.


     
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    The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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