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Old-man Tomlinson looking a lot like L.T. of old

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist
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LaDainian Tomlinson's career was dismissed as a cautionary tale months ago. Taps was played. Obits were prepped. Now, standing in the New York Jets' locker room after another week of shutting people's pie holes, he looks remarkably well for a dead man.

That's what Tomlinson was supposed to be ... a goner. Deader than the scrolls and headed for the analyst couch. Or maybe a guest spot on Yo Momma.

LaDainian Tomlinson's 76 yards helped the Jets to their first W of '10. (Getty Images)  
LaDainian Tomlinson's 76 yards helped the Jets to their first W of '10. (Getty Images)  
"I was supposed to be done," he said with a smile.

We all thought he was. I did. You did. The San Diego Chargers, his former team, certainly did when they jettisoned him with a wrist watch and a slap on the back. In an instant his career went from the smell of roses to smelling like Mick Jagger's tour bus seat.

In an NFL season already full of kaleidoscopic twists (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 2-0?) the fact that Tomlinson still possesses a burst might be the most shocking. No one saw this coming. No one.

It's just two games but that's not the point. The point is a guy likely destined for the Hall of Fame has his jet pack back.

"I thought he was washed up?" said Jets coach Rex Ryan. "Really an unbelievable day by L.T. and you just see that spirit. We all see it on the practice field."

Tomlinson has become the anti-Brett Favre. His return to form hasn't been fueled by a public spat with his old team or a magnificent ego. Tomlinson, known to run his mouth on occasion, has mostly been quiet with the media.

"I didn't want to do a lot of talking," Tomlinson said. "I wanted to actually show people what I can do. ... I think people really forget, the last couple of years I've gotten hurt the first game of the year, battling the whole year pretty much with injuries. Now I'm healthy again. I feel great."

In charting each of Tomlinson's plays there was a quicker step not present during his last days in San Diego. Tomlinson maintains it was due to injury and he might be right, but that's not how it looked. Tomlinson appears to be almost a different guy.

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Last season with the Chargers, Tomlinson approached the line of scrimmage cautiously. There was more bouncing and twinkle toes. The Jets have convinced Tomlinson to approach the hole with vigor and he has obliged. He takes on blocking with more aggression as well.

Tomlinson was a crucial cog on three of the Jets' scoring drives Sunday against New England. He was the emergency outlet on a dumpoff from Mark Sanchez that ended in a first down, had two nice runs that help set up a field goal and threw key blocks to keep Sanchez off the ground.

Tomlinson finished the game with 76 yards on 11 carries. He also caught four passes for 26 yards. He has been the Jets' most stable offensive player. He looked fresher than any other runner on the field.

How long can this last? He's 31 and in the NFL 31 for a running back is like 51. The age is destined to catch up with him at some point this season. He won't play this young forever. Not even Tomlinson can do that.

Or can he?

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