Tomlinson's competitive spirit kicks in

LaDainian Tomlinson is a go this weekend, or at least that is the way he sees it. The San Diego Chargers all-time leading rusher has one game to go before the bye week and with the team clicking on all cylinders, he does not want to miss out.

The whispers out of San Diego were that LaDainian Tomlinson may sit to give him extra rest for a groin injury that has taken its toll on the star back. But those were quickly squashed on Wednesday by head coach Marty Schottenheimer.

When asked if there was any truth to the reports, Schottenheimer vehemently denied them coming out of the Chargers camp, "Not out of here there isn't, none."

Fantasy owners are already breathing a sigh of relief at the news. One of the top backs in the league, has had to deal with questions regarding his groin on a weekly basis.

Despite his injury status, Tomlinson is still ranked tenth in the NFL and is tied for second in the league with seven rushing touchdowns.

"The groin is getting a little bit better," said Tomlinson. "It was a lot better this past week than the previous week. I am hoping that it will feel even better this week."

After this week it is the bye week and a real chance at rest. But think about it. A running back with a groin injury. Is there anything more debilitating than a chronic groin injury that won't go away?

Even if he had a sprained ankle, at least he could cut one way but a groin injury affects every movement a back makes.

‘Handoff to Tomlinson running left, he meets a wall of defenders at the line and has to stop on a dime. He stutter-steps left than hops back to find an alternate route. He sees the hole three feet away and as he spins his torso to become as slim as possible the twinge occurs and he misses that crucial burst that would have had him chasing daylight.'

It isn't easy being LT these days. Luckily, there have been no setbacks and he can continue to take the pounding week after week.

"I don't think it's going to get any worse from here," Tomlinson added. "It's going to get better, but I'll tell you what, I'm certainly looking forward to the bye week."

And he continues to perform, averaging 4.0 yards per carry. It hasn't hurt that rest has also been an option late in games with Jesse Chatman running so well. And despite all the missed drives – welcome back that stat again – Tomlinson is tenth in the league in rushing.

Opposing coaches still gameplan to suffocate the TCU alum, injury or not. He still has the same vision and talent as when he is healthy and a step slower just makes him great instead of exceptional.

"He's strong, he's powerful, he's quick, and he had 100 receptions last year," Saints coach Jim Haslett said. "He can do almost anything he wants."

Haslett even called him exceptional and knows the best plan to stop the Chargers offense is to contain the run.

"One of the reasons we've continued to have him play and he's wanted to play is because each week he gets progressively better," Schottenheimer added. "The condition has not deteriorated. He comes back each week and he is better than he was the week before at the same point in time."

The coach has been relatively cautious with him. He has pulled him from games when the time was right and Tomlinson has pulled himself from the action if he feels like he is doing more harm than good.

But the main reason Tomlinson continues to come to play on game days is the Chargers success. He has not been part of a winning team.

It doesn't matter who is on the other side of the field from Tomlinson. Now that he can see the playoffs through the tinted visor, his desire to be a part of it outweighs any hurt he feels.

Tomlinson has always been a team player and grinding it out during the week so he can pump up the crowd on Sunday is what it is about. He knows his first chance at playing on a Saturday in January is in front of him and will do what it takes to ensure that happens. It isn't that he would abandon the team if they were 3-5 instead, but he might take that week off figuring it wouldn't hurt nearly as much as they build for next year.

The atmosphere is different in San Diego. The week that leads up to the game takes away the choice of whether he will play.

"It's so much different," Tomlinson said of this year compared to year's past. "The week goes by so fast, the season isn't so long, the season doesn't seem like it goes by so fast and all that is just a credit to how we're playing and winning games now."

Denis Savage can be reached at denis@sandiegosports.net

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