SAN DIEGO -- Saying he always thought of himself as a Charger, star running back LaDainian Tomlinson re-signed with San Diego's NFL franchise Monday, then immediately retired, ending his 11-year career.
Tomlinson, who turns 33 on Saturday, donned the blue and gold from 2001 to 2009 before moving over to the New York Jets for the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
"I always felt like I was a Charger,'' Tomlinson said at a news conference at Chargers Park. "The guys, the teammates, the bond you build, the battles you went (through) together -- it was special and I always felt in my heart that I was a Charger.''
In a turbulent period when he departed the organization, team President Dean Spanos told him he could come back and retire in San Diego, according to the running back, who gained 13,684 yards in his career, fifth most in league history.
In introducing him, Spanos said Tomlinson called him a few weeks ago to accept his offer.
It is common for professional athletes to re-sign with teams they most identified with for sentimental reasons prior to retiring.
"Today is a special day, and that's because it's not often a player comes along who defines your team and the NFL for the better part of a decade, like LaDainian Tomlinson,'' Spanos said. "The truth is that few players have played a bigger role or meant more to this team and this city than L.T. -- he was the very heart and soul of this organization during one of its most successful decades.''
After a highlight video was screened, the two signed a contract that made Tomlinson a Charger before they posed for photographs with the contract and a powder-blue number 21 jersey.
Tomlinson, the Chargers' first-round draft pick in 2001, won two NFL rushing titles during his nine seasons with the Chargers and was picked for five Pro Bowls. His biggest year with the Chargers was 2006, when he scored a league-record 28 rushing touchdowns and was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player and NFL Man of the Year.
By the time he left the Chargers at the end of the 2009 season, a knee injury had forced him out of several key games, and he had publicly butted heads with Chargers General Manager A.J. Smith, who mocked Tomlinson in an interview. Tomlinson said at his farewell news conference that he could only see himself coming back to San Diego once Smith departed. Smith remains with the team but did not play a role in today's announcement.
Tomlinson said he believes he remains physically capable of playing, but just decided it was time to move on, especially since he has two toddler children with his wife, LaTorsha.
His announcement came a little more than two months following the apparent suicide of another Chargers icon, linebacker Junior Seau. He was asked if there was a connection between that event and his retirement.
"Not at all. What happened with Junior -- it didn't play a factor in my decision at all, it really didn't,'' Tomlinson said. "I think it's, obviously, two separate situations, and I had to make the best decision for me.''
He said he got "dinged'' a little bit during his career, but had no concussion problems.
Prior to joining the NFL, Tomlinson was an All-American at Texas Christian University. He is expected to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017, the first year he will be eligible.
He did not reveal future plans, but said he had some things "brewing.''Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun