LaDainian Tomlinson's decision to choose the Jets over the Vikings wasn't an easy one, especially after he left Minnesota thoroughly impressed with the way the Vikings' organization runs things.
But the future Hall of Famer just felt the Jets were the better fit.
"Well, I had two places that wanted me and I think the major decision that it came down to was having to learn a new offense versus playing in an offense that I already know with Brian Schottenheimer," Tomlinson said today on a conference call. "So that pretty much had a lot to do with it."
Still, that doesn't mean Tomlinson didn't wrestle with the decision.
"It was pretty tough," he said. "But when it comes down to it, you have to go with your gut feeling no matter what. You’ve just got to go with a feel and that's what I did."
With the Jets, Tomlinson admitted he has the chance to get the ball more than if he went to Minnesota. The Vikings have All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson while the Jets' workhorse will be Shonn Greene, a second-year back who's stepping into a role as the No. 1 obviously for the first time as a pro.
"I thought I definitely may have an opportunity to get more touches here with the Jets," he said. "Being at the stage of his career that (Greene) is, it's just a different situation. I thought being behind the eight ball also and learning a new offense would be tough at this point because I’ve been in this type of offense that the Jets run my whole career."
Even so, Tomlinson won't be the featured back of course. That distinction belongs to Greene, and Tomlinson is completely OK with that.
"Absolutely. I said before I have no ego," Tomlinson said. "At this point, it's all about having the opportunity to win a championship. I go into this situation looking at it as far as going to high school or college again. The Jets made it to the AFC championship without me. How can I come in here and demand to be a starter?
"They were very good without me. I just want to take a role on this team and contribute."
He later added: "I don't expect anything to be given to me. I'm going to work for it. Wherever I fit in, I fit in."
One role he's already anticipating is being a father figure of sorts to Greene. The Iowa product imitated nearly everything the vanished Thomas Jones did, soaking things up with sponge-like ability. Now, the mentor role falls on Tomlinson's shoulders and he's eager about the prospect of making Greene better.
"I truly believe this -- the greatest thing you can leave in this league ... people talk about legacy and all this stuff. Yeah, I mean people are going to look at those tapes and see what I did on the field. But the greatest thing you can have in this league other than a legacy, is teaching young guys, guys that continue on the tradition of running the football. And to me, I embrace that role of mentoring the young running backs, including Shonn Green."
Perhaps, Tomlinson could even instruct Greene on how to properly do the trademark ball flip that L.T. does when he hits paydirt. Remember, Greene did the ball flip following his 53-yard touchdown run that virtually clinched their AFC Divisional win over the Chargers.
"When I seen him to do it, I felt it needed a little critique," Tomlinson said. "I looked at it like, 'Well, maybe he’s calling for me to come and see if I can critique him.' Nah, I’m going to definitely show him the right way to do it and I’d be honored if he did it a few more times next year."
Tomlinson's numbers have decreased over the past few seasons. His average yards per carry dipped from 5.2 to 4.7 to 3.8 to 3.3. So have his touchdowns, going from 31 to 18 to 12.
But while most point to the 30-year-old's age, few tend to remember that the Chargers are more of a pass-first team with QB Philip Rivers at the helm.
"Certain things happen sometimes -- changes in philosophies, certain players move on and they start switching their styles," he said. "So I’d be lying to you if that didn’t definitely have something to do with it. But again, it’s still on me to prove that I can still play in this league. Now here we are, with a team like the Jets that has very good offensive line.
"There’s no more excuses."
Tomlinson brushed off the critics who say he's done, that he's a shell of himself.
"People are always gonna have their opinions about certain things," he said, "but I think my time will tell. Really, I have to prove to people obviously where I am at this point in my career, that I can still play this game. But I’m very confident I can. So, we’ll let it play out.
"People are gonna speculate what they want. That's not really my concern," he added. "I live to play this game and I'm very passionate about playing it. This is a new opportunity, a new step for me. So, I’m exited about the opportunity and I can't wait to get started."
Tomlinson suffered a high ankle sprain in the season opener against the Raiders and said it affected his production for nearly half the season. But that's all behind him now and he's been working out for the last three or four weeks. He said he feels great and plans to be present for the Jets offseason conditioning program, which begins Monday.
"For the years that I've been in [the league], I’m probably in better shape than most guys at this position," Tomlinson said. "Obviously, I've had some nick knack injuries. I haven't even had any surgeries, any kind of procedures. So if you ask most running backs that are going into their 10th year and are 30 years old, they'd probably had a surgery or two. Some things are hard to get over. That's not my case."
So now, Tomlinson gets at a shot at becoming the second-most beloved L.T. in town since ... well, you get the point.
"Oh man, I think it's kind of ironic, to be honest with you," he said. "But I guess now the Jets get to cheer on an L.T. The Giants got to cheer on an L.T. for so long and the Jets get their chance. But I will tell you, I came here to win a championship and I believe this team has the ability to do it.
"It wouldn’t be no greater place than to bring a championship to the city of New York."
The Jets today announced the signing of free agent DE Rodrique Wright.