L.T: 'We are an elite team'

LaDainian Tomlinson set thirteen new records in 2006. But the record he is most concerned with is 0-2, which is his win-loss mark in the postseason. L.T. believes the Chargers have the talent and experience to touch up that blemish this January. The core of last season's 14-2 squad returns intact, with many key contributors just entering their primes.

These things have a certain ring to them: NFL MVP; NFL records for touchdowns (31) and rushing touchdowns (28) in a season; leading the NFL in rushing (1,815 yards).

Those were just a few of the accomplishments by Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson last season. But when the Patriots chewed up and spit out the Chargers in the playoffs, all those jaw-dropping numbers lost some of their sizzle.

So what's at stake this year? Everything to Tomlinson.

What he wants is The Ring, the one going to the Super Bowl champions.

Tomlinson is making no bones about what is expected of the Chargers this season. Winning their second AFC West title in three years was keen last year, but the bar is much higher in 2007.

"Our expectations are to win the championship," Tomlinson said. "Realistically, we think we have a shot at it. Last year was kind of a year that was a little more shocking to all of us because of what we did in the regular season -- 14-2.

"You never expect to go 14-2 in the regular season, so I think last year was kind of a situation where we expected to win but we didn't know how much."

So much is expected of a team which returns all but four starters from a squad which produced the league's best regular-season mark in 2006.

"Now we realize we are an elite team," Tomlinson said. "We're one of five teams in the National Football League that really has an opportunity of winning the whole deal."

That's the catch -- anything less than kissing the Vince Lombardi Trophy come February will be seen as a lost season.

The Chargers are stacked to do just that. But, in sports nothing is guaranteed. And the Chargers -- don't forget -- haven't won a playoff game since the 1994 season.

Tomlinson is 0-2 in his two playoff appearances, one of the lone black marks on his stellar resume. But with those losses came a dose of education, he said.

"I think experience is the biggest teacher. You experience what happened, and you experience different things that happened during that big game and you make sure they don't happen again."

Like coughing up a fourth-quarter lead. Like Tomlinson having but nine rushes in that fateful second half.

But what's not to like about a Chargers team which is not only talented but isn't long in the tooth at the key positions?

"I think our team is young enough and we're just now in the window," Tomlinson said of the Chargers chance to be successful this season and in the near future. "We're still going to have some years left before that window closes."


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