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    Tomlinson confirms six-year, $60 million deal

    Tomlinson confirms six-year, $60 million deal
    By Jim Trotter
    STAFF WRITER

    August 13, 2004

    CARSON Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson confirmed yesterday that he has reached an agreement in principle on a six-year contract extension that could bring him $60 million, including $21 million in guarantees.

    The details of the pact, which will make Tomlinson the highest-paid running back in NFL history, still were being finalized yesterday, but team officials and Tomlinson said they hope to have everything done before tomorrow's exhibition opener against the Indianapolis Colts in Qualcomm Stadium.

    "I feel good," Tomlinson said. "Obviously it's very pleasing to me that we have come to an agreement. It means a lot to a lot of people around here, to myself and hopefully to the San Diego Chargers out in the public.

    "I think it sends (a message) that if you're the guy who has really done the right thing, has really played your heart out and given your all, the Chargers will take care of you. It's a proven fact, because they have taken care of me."

    Tomlinson's new deal, which will run through the 2011 season, will be the richest for an NFL running back in not only total dollars, but also guaranteed money. The previous high in total dollars belonged to former Denver Bronco Terrell Davis, who failed to see all of the money after sustaining a career-ending knee injury; and the previous high for guaranteed money was $17 million, set earlier this year when Clinton Portis signed a new contract with Washington.

    Tomlinson, who considers himself the best running back in the league, said it's only fitting that he would have the No. 1 contract among ball carriers. But he said the agreement is about more than money.

    "It's (about) the respect, the loyalty that's seldom (seen) in sports today," he said. "What more could I say about that?"

    The agreement could be the first step in changing the perception that some players and fans have of the organization. Negotiations with previous front-line players such as Junior Seau, Rodney Harrison and Natrone Means were acrimonious at best, but Tomlinson's talks went so smoothly that the deal was done in a matter of weeks with two years remaining on his existing contract.

    That reality didn't go unnoticed in the locker room.

    "I think it's big for the organization to step up to the plate and reward a guy of that magnitude in that way," fullback Lorenzo Neal said. "LT is a guy who works hard and now he's not going to have to worry about the finances. He can exhale. I think it shows guys know that, hey, this organization is making changes, is headed in the right direction, is showing that we're committed financially. That means a lot to LT.

    "No doubt, a lot of guys were watching the situation. No slap against anybody, but this says that we've got our priorities straight. We know we have a rookie, Philip Rivers first-round pick, what have you who is the future. But the organization said, 'You know what? We're going to reward a guy who has proven that he can play in this league, who has proven that he can rewrite the record books, who has proven that he has earned his merits in this league.' "

    There had been speculation that Tomlinson might ask for a trade or try to leave as a free agent if the team failed to put the "franchise" tag on him after the 2005 season, but the fourth-year pro said he never considered it.

    "I never even thought about it," he said. "I want to be here to make the change. I want to be here when people say what the organization used to be like when they were down, and now these guys are up and they're winning. I want to be a part of that group."


    Probable lineup
    Coach Marty Schottenheimer said he hadn't finalized his rotation for tomorrow night but said the quarterbacks likely will play as follows: 1 quarters each for Drew Brees and Cleo Lemon, with Joe Germaine finishing.
    In addition to Tomlinson, Schottenheimer said a number of players won't play, including: linebacker Donnie Edwards; defensive linemen Adrian Dingle and DeQuincy Scott; wideout Tim Dwight; quarterback Doug Flutie; and running back Leon Johnson.

    It's possible Scott could miss the entire exhibition season. Schottenheimer said Scott, the team's sacks leader last season with a career-high 6, has a hernia and might require surgery.


    Practice schedule
    The team will practice once today, at 9 a.m., at The Home Depot Center.

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    Re: Tomlinson confirms six-year, $60 million deal

    'Atta boy, LaDainian. Too bad you're stuck with the Chargers.

    with Joe Germaine finishing
    Teehee.

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