Tomlinson: "The Playoffs"

LaDainian Tomlinson spent his offseason in part misery, part heaven. When the San Diego Chargers missed the playoffs, Tomlinson took it to heart. Then he got married and what was once misery turned to happiness. <br><br> "My offseason was great, I got married," said Tomlinson.

LaDainian Tomlinson had a breakout season in 2002. The Chargers running back earned his first Pro Bowl nod after a team-record 1,683-yard season, finishing the year as the NFL's second-leading rusher behind Ricky Williams.

Now Tomlinson has another year under his belt, the offensive line is more experienced and Lorenzo Neal is leading the way through the trenches.

"I think it is big, I really do. Our offensive line has another year of experience of working together. I think they understand me and I understand them. I know a lot more about defenses and the more we are in the offense, this is our second year in the offense, the more we are in, the more we will learn. So we know exactly where people are going to be and that makes a big difference.

"With the addition of Lorenzo, that's huge. With his big head and everything…I have seen him head butt a couple of people already!"

Two seasons into his NFL career, Tomlinson has already recorded 11 career 100-yard rushing efforts. Last season, he tied Don Woods' single-season team mark with seven 100-yard games. The Chargers are 6-5 in games when Tomlinson surpasses the 100-yard barrier.

"I have not come up with a goal at all, because, my main focus is the playoffs. If I have to carry the ball 25 times one game, 30 times, that is what I will do. If I have to catch the ball 10, 15 times, then that is what I will do. Whatever it takes to get wins and get us to the playoffs. That is my focus."

So Tomlinson won't care about surpassing Natrone Means and Paul Lowe who share the team record with 16 career 100-yard games apiece.

But give him the rock around the goal line and the Chargers are golden. Six times in his career, Tomlinson has scored at least two touchdowns in the same game. The Chargers are a perfect 6-0 in those games.

Dating back to his rookie season, this is the Chargers record when Tomlinson:

Rushes for more than 100 yards: 6-5
Rushes for less than 100 yards: 7-14
Scores a touchdown: 8-9
Doesn't score a touchdown: 5-10
Carries 20 or more times in a game: 12-8
Carries less than 20 times in a game: 1-11

It is safe to say: the Chargers must get him the ball to be successful. That will also mean the defense is doing its job and keeping them in games.

"It was really hard to be in that position at the end of the (2002) season and lose the last two games that could have put us in the playoffs. It was really hard because I think last year we all were expecting to be in the playoffs. We were in perfect position to do so and when we didn't, it really hurt. It stuck with me for awhile."

The Chargers kept Tomlinson out of most of the preseason and he is itching to go.

"I have been trying to tell Marty (Schottenheimer). They have been taking good care of me. I am ready to roll now. I have been sitting over there on the sidelines thinking I am a coach and everything, but it is time to go."

Tomlinson has never had much of a preseason workload and why mess with success. Minor injuries were also a concern this preseason, but he is feeling fine.

"I definitely feel 10 times more comfortable than I did last year, and I hope as the season comes it becomes more and more of a comfort zone for me just being out there," he said. "I think everybody feels confident right now, and we are just waiting for the regular season to come along."

Tomlinson has been terrific on Opening Day in each of his first two seasons. Last season he rushed 21 times for 114 yards and one score at Cincinnati, and as a rookie in 2001, Tomlinson rushed 36 times for 113 yards and two touchdowns against Washington.

Tomlinson has 2,919 career rushing yards and 24 career touchdowns, placing him fifth in both categories on the Chargers all-time list.

He will continue to make an assault on the Chargers record book this year and his main goal is to have it include the playoffs where he can start setting new records.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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