The Big Apple, we could forgive.
When LaDainian Tomlinson announced his retirement this week, signing a one-day contract with the Chargers in order to leave the NFL with the franchise that brought him into the league, it really did seem like he’d never actually left San Diego.
Just like that, we could forget he was ever a Jet.
But, oh, how feelings might have been different had our man decided to continue chasing his dreams … it hurts to even say … a mile high.
Five days after a poignant ceremony at Chargers Park, where he walked away a proud member of the team that drafted him 11 years ago, Tomlinson said he’d felt almost certain since late last fall that 2011 would be his final season.
But he did his due diligence up until recent weeks. And he acknowledged there was one team – only one – he considered playing for in 2012.
It wasn’t the Chargers. And, no, not even a call from Bill Belichick would have kept LT in the NFL.
“The only team I really gave a thought to was the Broncos, because of Peyton,” Tomlinson said Saturday, referring, of course, to Denver’s signing of quarterback Peyton Manning. “We talked. Tom (Condon, Tomlinson’s agent) talked with them … It made me pause a little (and think), ‘Was this what I really want to do?’ … I said, ‘They got Peyton, they have a good defense already; they went deep in the playoffs with Tim Tebow, what are they going to do with Peyton?’ I seriously thought about it.”
LT in orange?
No, no, no. That would not have gone over well.
Maybe only after we’d gotten the taste of barf out of our mouths … Nope, scratch that. Had he wound up in Denver, we could not have considered the greatest Charger ever to be a Charger ever again.
Tomlinson also said Saturday that while he did not regret his time in New York and, in retrospect, was even glad to have had the experience of playing for a different franchise, he would have preferred to walk away on top with the team with which he’d always envisioned doing so.
“If we would have won the Super Bowl after nine years,” he said, “I would have retired a Charger. Then I wouldn’t even have gone to New York.”
The Chargers went 13-3 in 2009, as Tomlinson battled through an ankle sprain. Never before had he been forced to sit due to injury, and never before had he touched the ball so seldom. Yet, he seemed oddly content. He knew his time with the Chargers was almost certainly up, and he was coy about his future back then. But you could see him deciding to go out a champion.
But a loss by the No.2-seeded Chargers in their playoff opener left him unfulfilled.
That he did spend two years with the Jets was OK. No one can find fault in his continued pursuit of a ring — pretty much the sole prize he didn’t earn in 11 record-setting NFL seasons.
“That was the only reason I considered Denver,” he said. “At the same time, I thought, ‘How much is a Super Bowl ring really going to do for you at this point?’ Because it’s not with the team I really wanted to do it with.”
Barry Sanders did not depart Detroit to resurface in Green Bay. Emmitt Smith may have hung on too long — but not with the New York Giants.
I told LT on Saturday I needed a moment to get my head around the fact it was even a possibility he would wear orange.
“Exactly!” he said, laughing like he does and actually hitting my arm. “I know. And you know what? At the end of the day I was thinking, ‘I can’t do that.’ It’s not as bad as being a Raider — but almost.”
Written by Kevin Acee for SDUT - 1:36 p.m., June 23, 2012