Tomlinson eyes better days

LaDainian Tomlinson has seen it before. He has made it through the carnage of some disastrous seasons. But last year was supposed to be different. In his, and his teammates' eyes, it should have been the continuation of excellence. But, as their coach has often said, "one step forward, and two steps back."

LaDainian Tomlinson doesn't need much to shine. Just the smallest of holes is required to unleash one of the game's top running backs.

One thing Tomlinson required this offseason: a rear-view mirror. That's where he's plopped last year's disappointing season, although he admits to peeking into it on occasion.

Last year's third-place pratfall still carries some sting, because of the 9-7 season unfolded.

"A lot of missed opportunities," said Tomlinson, of the 2005 campaign. "I think that is the biggest thing in looking back on games like Philadelphia and Dallas."

Against the Eagles, a late blocked kick led to a loss. Against the Cowboys in the opener, the Chargers couldn't convert on four chances inside the Dallas 10-yard-line in the closing minutes.

"We could have just as easily won 11, 12 games even though we had a tough schedule," Tomlinson said. "Those missed opportunities are what really hurts and just kills you."

At the same time, the pain came with a lesson or two. And Tomlinson is hopeful the Chargers were good students and those hard lessons of '05 pay dividends in '06.

"You got to think about it but at the same time put it behind you," said Tomlinson, who was the NFL's sixth-leading rusher last year with 1,462 yards, the third highest total in team history. "But the key is to learn from it and make sure you get in that situation again to make sure you take care of that situation."

Translation: when rivals are on the ropes deliver the knockout punch.

"You have to step on their neck and don't let them up," Tomlinson said. "I felt like our guys gave an effort. But it's one thing to give an effort and another thing to know how to handle the situation."


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