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Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Tomlinson must accept reduced role

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

Well. Not long after we asked our inaugural "Big Question," Minnesota took a step toward answering it. The Vikings scheduled a Thursday visit with running back LaDainian Tomlinson, indicating he is their top choice to replace Chester Taylor as Adrian Peterson's backup/third-down back.

LaDainian Tomlinson
LaDainian Tomlinson has a visit with the Vikings scheduled for this week.
We discussed Tomlinson's aptitude for the job in our previous post, but it bears repeating he is an excellent fit for the job so long as Peterson remains healthy over a 16-game season. But there is also a pesky little issue that will have to be cleared up in order for this to work.

You might recall that in September, Tomlinson said he resented an implication from Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown that Peterson was the better player. Here's what Tomlinson said:

"Jim Brown was telling Peterson he's the best runner he'd seen in a long time. I was sitting there reading it thinking, 'Wow.'

"The difference with me is you can put me out on that field and there will be nothing I can't do. I won't have to come off the field. Adrian has to come off sometimes on third down. Running routes, he's still not there yet. Great downhill runner, powerful, fast, all that stuff ...

"But anything on that field you want me to do -- throw it, block -- I can do it. That's what I pride myself on is not having any weaknesses. And that's what makes me the best back."

At the time, Minnesota coach Brad Childress responded by supporting Peterson.

"LaDainian is a hell of a back and he's entitled to his opinion," Childress said. "I'm going to tell you, my guy is the best football player in the National Football League and he's the best running back in the National Football League, and I believe that."

A lot has changed since Tomlinson made those statements, and I can't imagine he believes he is the better back after a humbling 2009 season. But to me, the Vikings must determine if Tomlinson is ready to subordinate his pride and accept a role secondary to Peterson. Last season, Taylor carried the ball 94 times, less than a third of Tomlinson's career average.

If Tomlinson is willing to accept that reduction, along with third-down responsibilities, this is a win-win situation for both sides.