LaDainian Tomlinson retired from the National Football League today, ending an 11-year career in which he set a record for touchdowns in a season and compiled the fifth-most rushing yards in history.
Tomlinson, who spent the past two seasons with the New York Jets after nine years with the San Diego Chargers, re-signed with the Chargers today and then announced the end of his playing career during a news conference. Tomlinson said he went “back and forth” for months on whether to retire.
“When I finally made the decision to retire, I knew it was the right thing to do,” Tomlinson said. “I’m going to be 33 years old and never had a serious concussion or anything like that. At this point, I’m taking a big risk going back out there, possibly blowing my knee out. Now, I’m walking around good and will be for the rest of my life.”
The 32-year-old Tomlinson rushed for 12,490 yards while playing for the Chargers, and his career total trails only Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Curtis Martin. His 145 rushing touchdowns are second to Smith and his 31 touchdowns scored during the 2006 season remains a record.
“Some guys you watch play and say, ’I wonder if he will wind up in the Hall of Fame?’ LT answered that question a long time ago,” Chargers General Manager A.J. Smith said. “He is one of the greatest and most versatile running backs to ever play the game.”
Tomlinson rushed for more than 1,100 yards in each of his first eight NFL seasons with the Chargers, while catching more than 50 passes out of the backfield each year. He was released after rushing for 730 yards and averaging a career-worst 3.3 yards a carry during the 2009 season.
Tomlinson then joined Shonn Greene in the Jets’ backfield and rushed for 914 yards in 2010 to help New York reach the American Football Conference’s championship game. He had an even more limited role last year, when he rushed for 280 yards and one touchdown on 75 carries, and had said at the end of the season that he might retire.
“His humility and work ethic made it clear why he will be remembered as one of the game’s best players,” Jets owner Woody Johnson said in a statement. “Without question, his next stop will be the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”
A three-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowl selection, Tomlinson set an NFL record with 28 rushing touchdowns in 2006, breaking the record of 27 shared by Priest Holmes and Shaun Alexander. His 31 touchdowns that year are three better than the 28 Alexander scored in 2005 and his 186 points scored broke the single-season mark of 176 set by Paul Hornung in 1960.
Tomlinson leaves the NFL with 162 career touchdowns, third all-time behind Jerry Rice (208) and Smith (175).