Print and Go Back ESPN.com: AFC West [Print without images]

Monday, February 22, 2010
A sad day in San Diego

By Bill Williamson
ESPN.com

Well, San Diego fans, it finally happened: The LaDainian Tomlinson era is officially over.

LaDainian Tomlinson
LaDainian Tomlinson racked up 12,490 rushing yards over nine seasons in San Diego.
Yes, I know, it’s not any easier to digest now that it has happened.

Tomlinson’s release has been expected since late last season when it was clear he could no longer be the bell-cow back in San Diego anymore. Tomlinson even admitted recently that he knew his time in San Diego was over.

Still, it’s an extremely sad day for Chargers fans. Tomlinson was an icon in San Diego.

The No. 5 overall pick in the 2001 draft out of Texas Christian University, Tomlinson quickly became the face of the franchise.

He is arguably the most popular and best player in franchise history. He will be a Hall of Famer. He had a nearly flawless nine-season career in San Diego; he was like an NFL version of Padres legend Tony Gwynn. His consistency and nose for the end zone coupled with his easy smile and desire to work in the community made him part of the fabric of San Diego. Unlike Gwynn, Tomlinson wasn’t a native. But now, Tomlinson will forever be a part of San Diego.

He will always be a Charger.

While it is a melancholy day in San Diego, it was necessary. Tomlinson’s time is up. He can no longer carry the team. That was evident last season when he was only effective at the goal line. Tomlinson had a career-low 730 yards and never registered a 100-yard game. San Diego had the second worst run offense in the NFL.

He had just 24 yards rushing in the Chargers’ stunning home playoff loss to the Jets. He couldn’t help the team when it needed him the most.

It is obvious Tomlinson can no longer help San Diego like he once could. The Chargers had to move on. Expect Tomlinson, who turned 30 last summer, to try to play elsewhere. But he won’t be a star for anyone.

Those days are over. We have all known it for a while. But it doesn’t make it any easier.