EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — On his left calf, LaDainian Tomlinson has a tattoo of the Chargers thunderbolt, representing his nine years in San Diego. Last spring, he added to the right calf the Jets logoshortly after signing a two-year deal in New York. On Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium, Tomlinson's past collided with the present when the Jets beat the Chargers 27-21.
Now for the first time since leaving southern California, Tomlinson can finally look ahead.
"I feel like officially, I can really close that chapter, really move on," Tomlinson said. "Just because I was able to face them and win, certainly helps. It feels good."
Tomlinson was jettisoned last year from San Diego, where he had spent the first nine years of a storied NFL career that will surely carry him someday to Canton. Five Pro Bowl selections while with the Chargers were a testament to the star quality of a player who became the fourth fastest in NFL history to reach 10,000 rushing yards. But injuries slowed him down in 2009 and the Chargers chose to release Tomlinson, opening the door for the now 32-year old running back to come to New York.
Playing against his old team for the first time since his release, after the game he called it "the closure of facing them."
"It was kind of like some huge obstacle that's out there that you haven't faced yet and to finally face it and overcome it, get a win and send them on the long flight back home with a loss," Tomlinson said. "So much is always made when you face your old team, the old feelings come up. I'm glad it's over."
The emotions of the day were overshadowed by Tomlinson playing with what he termed "flu-like symptoms" as he was given IV treatments throughout the game but could only last to the third quarter. Head coach Rex Ryan named him a starter for the game over running back Shonn Greene, a tip of the hat to Tomlinson's years in San Diego. He got the first three carries of their initial possession, churning out 13 yards and a first down, but oerall it was a quiet afternoon for Tomlinson, his five carries and 14 yards indicative of the flu's impact on his performance.
"Physically I'm hurting," Tomlinson said. "I've got to give credit to the doctors; they got me through as much of the game as I could."
"Eventually that flu [and then] taking hits, it just sort of drained me."
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer