Tuesday, January 22, 2008

No L.T., No Cry

The former MVP said he was practically 100% healthy. He said it was the biggest game of his career and would definitely play. He practiced during the week without a limp and proclaimed himself fine. Going into the game, the San Diego Chargers didn’t even feel the need to list him on the injury report. Yet Super Charger LaDainian Tomlinson played only 5 snaps in the Chargers 21-12 loss to the Patriots in the AFC Title game last Sunday.

Now we're told by LT and his defenders not to question the All-Pro Running back for his decision to sit out the game. True, LT is known as a stand-up man who rarely brings attention to himself on the field but is he truly a team player? He’s been known to complain about his team's game plan or if the players around him aren’t playing well. He's even been seen giving his Quarterback ‘the cold-shoulder’ along the sidelines after a mistake. He questions the direction of the front office. He whines when he loses and other teams celebrate their victories and often wonders out loud if his team will ever be good enough to make it to a Superbowl.

Yet last Sunday the Chargers were one game away from a Superbowl and LT was on the sidelines. He tried to play on his hyper-extended knee (or 'bruised' knee as it was first diagnosed) but felt he just couldn't continue. Four times the Chargers were in the red zone where LT flourishes and four times the Chargers only came away with 3 points. There he sat on the bench with his helmet and mask on, away from the game, and away from his teammates. He didn't try a new knee brace, never cheered on his team, and never tried to play again.

People should question LT on the extent of his injury and level of his fortitude. It's true that the position is called 'Runningback' and not 'Hobbleback' but LT has really never been injured before, so perhaps he didn't know his limitations and got scared. His own teammate, Phillip Rivers, showed a gutsy performance by getting orthroscopic surgery on his knee earlier in the week, limping around during practice, and then playing the whole game effectively. As a result, Rivers will need major off-season surgery but the magnitude of an AFC Title game could not keep him out of the line-up and for that Rivers' teammates were proud of him.

LaDainian Tomlinson will not need surgery on his knee this off-season because his injury was never that serious. If LT had played sparingly or was even used as a decoy, the Chargers may have won the game but to not try at all was his worst sin. There may not be many more chances for LT to get one step away from the Superbowl and now he must deal with that alone.

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