x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Tomlinson should rush to join Saints

This may sound odd, but the most tenuous job in sport is to be a highly-paid NFL running back who is entering the veteran stage of his career.

This may sound odd, but the most tenuous job in sport is to be a highly-paid NFL running back who is entering the veteran stage of his career. LaDainian Tomlinson, the San Diego running back, learned that this week as the Chargers cut him after his ninth season with the team. "It was a long time coming, but I knew it was coming," Tomlinson said. "Now that it's official I can kind of look to the next step in my career and playing football for someone else."

It will be odd to picture Tomlinson in another kit. He is synonymous with the Chargers' powder blue outfits. He is the Chargers, or so it seemed over the past decade. The problem is that while Tomlinson was the best runner in the league for years, lately he has become just average. In 2009, Tomlinson had the worst season of his career and even split playing time with Darren Sproles, the younger running back. When you factor in that Tomlinson still wants to be paid as a top back, the Chargers had no choice but to cut him loose.

Loyalty is nice and the Chargers' fans will be upset for the next few days as the realty of losing Tomlinson sets in, but they will be far more upset if the Chargers struggled next season because they spent too much money to keep him. So where does that leave Tomlinson, a certain Hall of Famer who is just 30 years old? "The main thing for me now is to try to win a championship," said Tomlinson, who ranks second in league history with 138 rushing touchdowns, third with 153 combined scores and eighth in rushing yards with 12,490.

"That's my No 1 goal. That's why I still work hard and train like I do, because I still believe there's a chance of winning that championship." Tomlinson also hinted at what would be his ideal situation. "I do know that I would have to go to a team that has a proven quarterback," Tomlinson said. "A place where you know you have a chance to win because of the quarterback." Well, Tomlinson's former Charger teammate, the New Orleans Saints' quarterback Drew Brees, knows all about what LT is going through. The Chargers let Brees go in 2006 to go with a younger Phil Rivers.

On his Twitter page Brees posted: "OK, due to popular demand, I am asking the question... who thinks LT should be a Saint?" The Saints have good running backs, but if Tomlinson lowers his asking price, he could go to New Orleans where he would have a great chance of getting that elusive Super Bowl ring. In a perfect world, Tomlinson would end his career as a San Diego Charger. The same could have been said about Brett Favre and the Packers, Tony Gonzalez and the Chiefs and Emmitt Smith with the Cowboys.

The NFL's salary cap offers little room for sentimentality. Even the biggest players get too expensive or stand in the way of young players at their position. For a running back like Tomlinson, production falls off dramatically after a certain age. Fans do not like the mercenary aspect of the NFL, nevertheless, there will not be a public revolt because the Chargers released Tomlinson. Tomlinson played a huge role in rebuilding the franchise's image after the fiasco of Ryan Leaf, the quarterback who never lived up to expectations, and should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

But at the end of the day, fans share a common objective with management. They both want to win a Super Bowl. In their heart of hearts, even owners of the No 21 powder blue jerseys understand that the NFL is ruthlessly competitive and that is one of the reasons we like it so much. sports@thenational.ae