LaDainian Tomlinson is ready for a dream season. That would be in stark contrast to how his last one ended on a cold day in New England.
"It was a nightmare," Tomlinson said. "You just want it over as quick as possible."
The Chargers would love a quick return trip to the AFC Championship Game after falling short against the Patriots last January. To do so, they need a healthy Tomlinson. It looks like they have it.
Tomlinson's day was cut short when he aggravated a sprained knee against the Patriots. He caught some flak for sitting on the bench for the game, huddled against the elements and trying to stiff-arm disappointment instead of rival tacklers.
When the games start this season, the memory of a battered and bummed Tomlinson on the sidelines will fade.
But Tomlinson's memory is long and he won't forget the verbal abuse sent his direction for not trying to re-enter the game -- although he was hurt.
Coach Norv Turner knows how Tomlinson feels. Turner was blasted when taking over for the Chargers as their head coach before last year. That criticism gathered momentum when the team started 1-3.
"When someone says something and it is fair, it doesn't bother you," said Turner, of Tomlinson's detractors. "But when someone says something that you don't think it is fair, you would probably consider the source and he probably has a different opinion of some of the people that questioned him than he did before."
Turner speculated Tomlinson's psyche was hurt that day as well.
"Hey, I don't care what the injury is, it's mental, too," Turner said. "You're fighting to go to the Super Bowl and he had been playing for that game for seven years and all of sudden you are knocked out of the game. He is human."
Quarterback Philip Rivers gets grief for showing his human side when he jaws with opponents and fans. Rivers said much was made about nothing when Tomlinson was sitting on the bench on a day when the temperature was in the single digit.
"Any time they catch something they will run with it and something gets all blown out and I thought that was the case there," Rivers said. "They panned over to him when he was sitting on the sidelines -- it was zero degrees and we were on defense -- and we were all sitting there for the most part.
"He was up, encouraging the guys when we were out there on offense. It wasn't like it was a bright, sunny day and he was sitting there with his helmet on."
It's "game on" for Tomlinson and the Chargers -- neither can wait to start a journey they hope takes them back to a place where they were just four quarters shy of a Super Bowl.
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