Published March 16, 2010
NEW YORK (AP) — LaDainian Tomlinson wants to cap his career with a Super Bowl ring.
He believes the New York Jets can help him deliver on that dream.
"There would be no greater place than to bring a championship to the city of New York," Tomlinson said during a conference call Tuesday.
The eighth-leading rusher in NFL history chose New York over Minnesota, signing a two-year deal worth about $5.2 million on Sunday with the Jets after visiting both teams last week.
"It was pretty tough, but when it comes down to it, you've got to go with your gut feeling, no matter what," Tomlinson said. "You've just got to go with a feel, and that's what I did."
Tomlinson, cut last month after nine seasons in San Diego and a career-low 730 yards rushing, said playing in a familiar offensive scheme under coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and living in New York played major roles in his decision.
"I will tell you I've come here to win a championship, and I believe this team has the ability to do it," Tomlinson said.
That should immediately endear him to Jets fans, who have been waiting to celebrate a title since Joe Namath delivered on his guarantee in 1969. New York came within a win of a Super Bowl appearance last season, beating Tomlinson and the Chargers along the way.
Tomlinson, who turns 31 in June, acknowledged he no longer has the "long" speed he once had when he was one of the league's most dynamic players. But he insists he's in great shape, is feeling healthy and still has "very good speed."
"I have to prove to people where I am at this point in my career that I can still play this game, and I'm very confident I can," said Tomlinson, who has 12,490 career yards rushing.
Tomlinson believes he'll be able to contribute more with New York than if he chose to back up Adrian Peterson in Minnesota, something general manager Mike Tannenbaum confirmed.
"We expect him to play a lot," Tannenbaum said. "We expect him to touch the ball a lot."
Tomlinson will report to the team when it begins its offseason program next Monday. He insists he's OK with a complementary role — he's expected to back up Shonn Greene, who made Thomas Jones expendable — after being a longtime focal point of the Chargers' offense.
"I have no ego," Tomlinson said. "At this point, it's all about having the opportunity to win a championship. ... The Jets made it to the AFC championship without me. How can I come in here and demand to be a starter? They were very good without me. I just want to be able to have a role on this team and contribute."
Tomlinson joins a rushing offense that ranked No. 1 in the NFL last season with 172.2 yards per game. He's also reunited with Schottenheimer, who was the Chargers' quarterbacks coach from 2002-05 and runs the same type of system in which Tomlinson became one of the league's most dynamic players.
"I'll just say this: This is my type of football," Tomlinson said.
The Jets went after Tomlinson hard despite his least productive season and questions about whether he has much left.
"When we looked at all the factors, we're real excited about LaDainian," Tannenbaum said. "We still think he can run the ball effectively in our system with our players."
Tomlinson's recent decline in production could be partly attributed to the Chargers' increasing focus on the passing game with Philip Rivers and the face San Diego's offensive line was generally mediocre. San Diego ranked 31st in rushing last season.
"It's still on me to prove that I can still play in this league," he said. "Now here we are with the Jets, a team that has a very good offensive line and there's no more excuses."
The 2006 NFL MVP visited with the Vikings last Thursday and heard from quarterback Brett Favre, who spent the 2008 season with the Jets and is still undecided about whether he'll return for a 20th season. Tomlinson said the uncertainty of Favre's status was not a factor in his own decision.
"I would've thought that I might get a little bit of a kind of hint of what he was thinking, but no, he didn't," Tomlinson said. "He didn't give me a clue at all what he was thinking."
After leaving Minnesota, Tomlinson spent Friday with the Jets and had dinner with Tannenbaum, coach Rex Ryan and other team officials. He flew back home to San Diego on Saturday and made up his mind.
"I couldn't see the future, but I always wanted to live in New York and have the opportunity to play on that wonderful stage," he said. "Obviously, now I get that opportunity and I'm excited about it."