Florham Park, N.J.– Giants fans have often taken offense to Ladainian Tomilinson being nicknamed, L.T. and in the days of Giants Stadium that opinion was somewhat understandable. However Giants stadium is no more and there is no doubt there is only one L.T. that is taking ownership of the New Meadowlands Stadium.
L.T. is in the 10th year of his first-ballot hall-of-fame career, the first seven years of his career was on as high a level of anyone in the history of the game. L.T. spent years being the most complete and dominating back in the NFL during his time in San Diego, but his played had slipped over the last couple of season. The slip in his play was coinciding with him turning 30 years-old (now 31), which is usually the mark-of-death for running backs in the NFL.
L.T. had been battling injury issues the past two seasons, but the thought was the injuries were just a part of his steady decline, not that he could bounce back strong if he got healthy again. Now L.T. says he feels better than ever, “I know what age I am (laughing). But that doesn’t mean I can’t play. You know I think sometimes you categorizes most players, but all players, meaning all players don’t slow down when they get to 30 or 31, some players just defy the odds and I like to say I’m that type of player.”
Granted people should always take statements like that with a grain of salt as a player is never going to just come out and say, ‘Hey I just don’t have it anymore,’ but based on his play through the first four games you’d be a fool to think this guy is anywhere close to done.
Rex Ryan had this to say about L.T.’s age, “You know it’s funny, but somebody forgot to tell him that he’s whatever age he is, but this guy is playing great I thought he was a terrific player last year. We were fortunate to get him…. I just thought he was going to be outstanding, but he’s actually even better than that, so what a great football player.”
During the offseason the Jets let Thomas Jones walk out the door and signed L.T. to replace Jones as Shonn Greene’s tag team partner and for this they got criticized and questioned from every possible direction.
All that could be heard was that it was a mistake to let Jones go, they need his leadership, they need him to carry the rock 20 times a game, L.T. is done haven’t you been watching the past couple of seasons?
The Jets said all the right things at the time, they were confident they made the right decision, but there is no way they thought they could be this right. Missing Jones leadership, okay that could be a fair point, except your replacing Jones with L.T. one of the most respected players, as well as respected people, as there is in this league. So, apparently for some reason people didn’t think L.T. could be a leader in the locker room?
Anyone who watched L.T. the past couple of years in San Diego had to think that he might of lost a step, but if you were really paying close attention you could see there were a variety of reasons his production started to dive as his time in San Diego came to a close.
Obviously there were the injury issues, which were made worse by him trying to play through them, but more importantly there was a drastic shift in the offensive philosophy of the Chargers.
With the emergence of Philip Rivers as an elite quarterback the Chargers switched from a run-oriented team with a great powerful offensive line to a pass first team with a sketchy, at best, offensive line. Sure L.T.’s injuries might of slowed him down to the point where he couldn’t bust through the holes like he used to, but also the holes weren’t there like they used to and the holes that were there, could barely be considered cracks.
So because the NFL is a what have you done for me lately league L.T. was pronounced as done. His numbers took a cliff dive from previous years and now he is 31-years-old, who in their right mind would sign him and expect him to help at all?
L.T. heard all the talk, but he never doubted himself. L.T. said, “You know I never lost confidence. I always knew that, you know, I can definitely do it. It was just about having the opportunities and also having the right people around me, that believed in me.”
Ryan and Jets management had heard all the talk as well, but they weren’t fooled for a minute. A couple of weeks ago Ryan was asked what they saw in L.T. that the rest of the league missed.
“We had to prepare for him. When we talked about him in the playoff game, we knew he was LaDainian, no doubt. Whether he was getting the ball or not, that was a different decision, but watching him physically, the talent he still had, that was obvious to us. Normally, when you assign a guy, you say, ‘Ok, this guy’s got him or whatever.’ We’re putting a guy and a half on him. We all had antennas up when he was in the game. It felt like we had to do that.” Ryan said, “His numbers weren’t good against us in that game, but the hidden message was that when we had to game plan him, we knew the kind of weapon he still was and the ability he still has. That’s why the decision was easy for us. We needed to get a guy that, not only, could be a great back on first and second-down, but could also be a great back on third-down. That’s why we brought in LaDainian.”
So far this season L.T. has run for 341 yards on 56 carries, that’s an average of 6.1 yards a carry, almost a full yard higher than he has ever averaged in a season. L.T. is on pace to run for 1,364 yards on the season and that’s not even factoring in everything he does for the passing game. Yesterday he ran all over the defenseless Bill racking up 133 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries.
Today defenses around the league are getting a memo across their desk that L.T. is far from done and he seems determined to prove more each and every week.
So now, all of a sudden, the question seems to have shifted to how and why could anyone else have not believed in L.T.?
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