Published May 27, 2010
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — LaDainian Tomlinson took the handoff, saw a hole and flashed the form that once made him one of the NFL's most exciting players.
"We had this little fold play and he just started boom, boom, boom, like this," Ryan said Thursday, zigzagging his hand. "Two or three different cuts. Clearly he would have made about 20 yards. I was like, 'Yeah, this is our guy.'"
Granted, there's no tackling during organized team activities, but it's clear that Tomlinson isn't coming to New York to just be a spare part.
"You always kind of gauge how you're doing and I think with anything, you gain confidence as you go and you always have that belief," Tomlinson said. "When you do it, it always reaffirms that belief that you had. You gain the confidence to keep going and do more."
A half-dozen practices in, Tomlinson believes he can still be a major contributor.
"I feel pretty confident," he said. "I mean, it's football, something I've been doing all my life. I don't think that will ever change."
When the Jets signed Tomlinson in March, many believed the aging star was way past his prime — the years of heavy workloads and 12,490 yards finally taking their toll. And, it's hard to argue with the stats: He had a career-low 730 yards rushing and 3.3 yards per carry last season for San Diego and was a non-factor against the Jets in the playoffs when he had 24 yards on 12 carries.
"His last game, as everybody is quick to point out, he never had a big game against us, but that was our day, I think," Ryan said, referring to the Jets' 17-14 win. "I believe he's got a lot more left. When you watch him out here bouncing around doing a great job with protections, running the football, he's still got that wiggle."
The Jets' backfield has a new look this season after Thomas Jones, who ran for a career-high 1,402 yards in 2009, was cut and signed with Kansas City. The elusive but injured Leon Washington was also traded to Seattle during the draft. Shonn Greene showed lots of promise as a rookie, but the Jets jumped at signing Tomlinson and then drafted the versatile Joe McKnight out of Southern California.
While Greene is expected to handle the bulk of the carries as the starter, Tomlinson should see lots of playing time.
"It's the same offense," said Tomlinson, who turns 31 on June 23. "So, most of the things, I can relate to what I've done before so I'm able to pick it up and keep going. A little difference is I'm moving around, especially in passing situations, and moving all over the place — motioning, shifts — so those are the kinds of things I've got to get used to."
The phrases used on offense are another thing Tomlinson is trying to get comfortable with.
"Just learning that terminology, different terminology how they call different plays here, that's probably been the toughest for me," Tomlinson said.
But, Tomlinson insists even that is going well. Plus, he feels good physically, something he couldn't say for part of last season when he dealt with a sprained right ankle that sidelined him for two games.
"I feel great," he said. "I'm just rolling right along."
Add in the fact he'll be playing in an offense that's focused on the run — the Jets ranked No. 1 in rushing last season — Tomlinson might still have a few highlights left. Even some of his teammates have labeled him as one of the Jets' standouts during OTAs.
"Well, that makes me feel great," he said. "These guys, they really didn't know me or what I was going to kind of bring to the team. To just go out there and show what I can do, I think it changes a lot of guys' perceptions of what they thought before I came here."
Meanwhile, Tomlinson has made a point of quickly warming up to his new neighborhood.
"It's great to go into some of these restaurants and stick your head in some of these little delis and get sandwiches and talk to some of the owners, and even some of the police officers around town," he said. "It's been even more than what I expected. The people have been so nice. My family is happy to be here."