Tomlinson's career ends the right way

June, 17, 2012
6/17/12
2:50
PM ET
The LaDainian Tomlinson problem has been resolved.

Kudos to all involved for making it right.

[+] EnlargeLaDainian Tomlinson
AP Photo/Denis PoroyLaDainian Tomlinson will retire as a member of the San Diego Chargers.
There has been an ugly cloud hanging over this situation for more than two years. Sunday, the San Diego Chargers announced the perfect and only logical solution: Tomlinson will sign a contract with the Chargers on Monday and immediately retire. A news conference will be held at the team’s facility to celebrate his tremendous career.

In 2017, Tomlinson will shuffle into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the first ballot and he will be remembered solely as a San Diego Charger.

As it should be.

Tomlinson is going out as a Charger the right way. He is doing it as a formality and not in a uniform. Tomlinson, who will turn 33 next week, is done as an NFL running back. Truly, he was finished when the Chargers cut him in 2010. That was the right football move, although it created a miserable emotional problem.

Like all great competitors, Tomlinson admitted this offseason he would be interested in playing for the Chargers again. The Chargers were in the market for a backup to Ryan Mathews, drafted to be Tomlinson’s replacement. They settled on 30-year-old Ronnie Brown, who made little impact last year as an Eagle. It was clear the Chargers had no interest in having Tomlinson on the 53-man roster.

Again, that is the correct football move. But allowing Tomlinson to gracefully leave the game and do it as a Charger is a classy move by the team.

When the Chargers cut Tomlinson, it got ugly quickly. Tomlinson and San Diego general manager A.J. Smith exchanged some unfortunate words and Tomlinson was bitter about the divorce. Even after signing with the New York Jets, Tomlinson continued to take unnecessary shots at the Chargers.

He could never let his San Diego days go. It appeared the Tomlinson-Chargers relationship was forever spoiled.

Now, it has been fixed.

I know this is important to San Diego chairman Dean Spanos, who will speak at Tomlinson’s news conference Monday. He knows the impact Tomlinson made on the field and in the community in San Diego. He remains a fan favorite.

Perhaps the relationship began to improve last month when Tomlinson was one of the speakers at the team’s public tribute for Junior Seau at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers can’t bring back Seau, but they are bringing back Tomlinson.

He doesn’t belong anywhere else.

This is the guy who helped turn around a lost franchise when he was drafted in the first round in 2001. This is a guy who made the Chargers must-watch action, especially when he dominated the NFL in 2006, setting an NFL record with 28 rushing touchdowns.

Aside from his sublime running abilities, one of Tomlinson’s greatest assets is his fast smile. Expect plenty of grins Monday when a special reconciliation occurs in San Diego.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN San Francisco 49ers reporter

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