Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Updated: March 11, 12:14 PM ET
LT says he's OK with 3rd-down role
ESPN.com news services
MINNEAPOLIS -- LaDainian Tomlinson is in Minnesota for a visit, and the Vikings believe he could be a good fit. Tomlinson, too, thinks he could be a good fit for Minnesota.
The running back is scheduled to meet with coach Brad Childress and other members of the organization Thursday. The 2006 NFL MVP was released by the San Diego Chargers last month after he had the least-productive season of his prolific nine-year career.
Tomlinson's travels are not scheduled to end in Minnesota. Following Thursday's trip to talk with the Vikings, Tomlinson is now scheduled to visit the New York Jets on Friday, a source close to the situation told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
Whether Tomlinson actually arrives in New York is another issue. The Vikings will be talking contract with Tomlinson on Thursday and if the sides can get a deal done, then Tomlinson will not need the trip to New York. Should talks between the Vikings and Tomlinson lag, then he will travel to New York on Friday. The Jets are looking for another running back now that Thomas Jones has moved on to Kansas City.
Tomlinson had dinner with Childress and members of the Vikings' front office at a Minneapolis steakhouse Wednesday night.
Childress said earlier Wednesday he wants "to see where his [Tomlinson's] mind is at," and is assuming the 30-year-old Tomlinson realizes he'd have to accept a reduced role as a backup to All-Pro Adrian Peterson.
"I would think he knows that, but I always want to over-communicate clarity, so we won't hopscotch around that," Childress said. "We'll have to show him what his role will be."
The Vikings are looking for another running back after Chester Taylor signed with the Chicago Bears.
Tomlinson told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he'd have no problem accepting a reduced role with the Vikings.
"I don't [have a problem with it]. I know I can catch the ball really well out of the backfield, can run routes and that's something that I've always looked for as I got older in my career. Being able to fall back on that. Not having to carry the ball as much," Tomlinson told the newspaper.
"I think that's what was lost in San Diego because I was the only guy that could really carry the ball 20 times. So my third-down role was reduced. So now I'm looking for that. It's something I can do and I can fit in well," he told the newspaper.
Tomlinson told the Star Tribune that the thought of playing with quarterback Brett Favre was appealing.
"The opportunity to play with Brett would be unbelievable, incredible," Tomlinson told the newspaper. "So many years I've watched Brett and also played against him and admire him so much. Imagining him just throwing the ball to me out of the backfield or something like that, it would be something I can always remember and also tell my kids about."
Favre hasn't committed yet to playing for the Vikings in the 2010 season.
Tomlinson admitted he had a visit lined up with another team after this, but he doesn't necessarily have to take it. He said his agent was with him on his visit to Minnesota, so a deal could be completed Thursday if he likes what he hears.
"I think it's a feel that you have to have," Tomlinson told the newspaper, when asked what it would take for him to sign with the Vikings. "It's not necessarily anything you're going to hear because I've heard what I like to hear. I have a role on this team. I think it's a feel that you have to have."
Childress said he had a "great conversation" on the phone with Tomlinson on Tuesday.
"Interrupted him on the golf course. Looking out my window, I said, 'Well, I can't lie to you. It's not a tropical paradise here or anything like that,'" Childress said, referring to the Metrodome. "But that's why we've got a roof on the place."
Typical for an oft-used NFL running back his age, Tomlinson has been on the decline since totaling more than 2,300 yards from scrimmage and 31 touchdowns in his MVP season in 2006. Last year was the first time since he was drafted fifth overall by the Chargers in 2001 that he didn't reach 1,000 yards rushing.
Tomlinson had 12 touchdowns and 730 yards on 223 carries for a paltry 3.3-yard average in 2009. His experience, sure hands and usefulness in the passing game, however, are important parts of the job description. Peterson, who turns 25 later this month, has had a problem with fumbling. He was frequently replaced by Taylor on third downs.
Childress dismissed the notion of Tomlinson as a possible tutor for Peterson.
"That's not in the equation," the coach said. "We're kind of measuring him more as a football player and as a person, as a man, as a competitor -- and how much he has left to be able to contribute to this team."
At his farewell to San Diego news conference last month, Tomlinson said he believes he can play for as many as four more seasons. He ranks eighth on the NFL's all-time rushing list with 12,490 yards. His 138 career rushing touchdowns rank second.
He doesn't have a Super Bowl ring, a goal the Vikings came close to reaching themselves last season before an overtime loss in the NFC Championship Game in New Orleans to the eventual champion Saints.
"You don't really want to go somewhere and get your brains beat out," Childress said. "You want to go and have a chance to win and compete and win that ultimate prize."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.