NFL: Unsigned Tomlinson goes home after visit with Jets
DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK — LaDainian Tomlinson flew home to San Diego on Saturday to consider his options after spending a day with the New York Jets and leaving without a deal.
The free agent — the eighth-leading rusher in NFL history — was on a flight Saturday morning after his visit.
He arrived in New Jersey on Thursday night after meeting with the Minnesota Vikings and spent Friday touring the Jets' facility in Florham Park. He then had dinner with coach Rex Ryan, general manager Mike Tannenbaum and other team officials, who tried to persuade him to join an offense ranked No. 1 in rushing last season.
It was uncertain if Tomlinson would decide between the Jets and Vikings or visit other teams. He has not commented on his plans or visits with the Jets and Vikings.
Tomlinson, who has rushed for 12,490 career yards, will turn 31 in June and was released by the Chargers last month after his least productive season. He ran for 730 yards on 223 carries for an average of 3.3 yards per carry, all career lows. Tomlinson scored 12 touchdowns, but his role was reduced in an offense now geared toward Philip Rivers and the passing game.
He's still regarded as an excellent route runner and superb pass catcher, two qualities that make him attractive to New York and Minnesota.
Tomlinson had dinner with members of the Vikings on Wednesday night and spent the next day at the team's headquarters. He left with a purple Vikings jersey in hand, but pulled away in a black limousine without a deal and headed to New Jersey.
He had been scheduled to fly back to San Diego on Friday night, but changed his flight after arriving in New Jersey so late Thursday. The Jets extended their visit with him Friday to include dinner. There were also no late-night flights to the West Coast available Friday.
If he joins the Jets, Tomlinson would back up Shonn Greene, who emerged in his rookie season and made Thomas Jones expendable. Jones signed with Kansas City days earlier.
The Jets have quarterback Mark Sanchez returning for his second season along with a solid offensive line that helped New York to average a league-leading 172 yards on the ground per game. Tomlinson is also familiar with Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who was the Chargers' quarterbacks coach from 2002-05.
Tomlinson could also be intrigued by the possibility of taking handoffs in Minnesota from Brett Favre, who's still mulling whether to return for a 20th season. He would back up Adrian Peterson and help replace Chester Taylor as the pass-catching threat out of the backfield. Taylor signed with Chicago last week.
Whether he chooses the Jets or Vikings, Tomlinson would not be the focal point of the offense, as he was for so many years with the Chargers — a role he has said he's OK with.
He was drafted with the fifth overall pick in 2001 out of TCU. He immediately became a star and helped transform the Chargers into perennial playoff contenders. His 138 career touchdowns rushing rank second in NFL history, and his 153 total touchdowns rank third.
After a heavy workload and a few injuries made him less effective in recent seasons — last season was his first under 1,000 yards — Tomlinson appears intent on winning a Super Bowl.
That's something the Vikings and Jets might be able to offer — both were a win shy of the NFL's big game last season. Minnesota lost to Super Bowl champion New Orleans 31-28 in overtime in the NFC championship, and New York fell to Indianapolis 30-17 in the AFC title game.
AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski in Eden Prairie, Minn., contributed to this report.