Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson, left, and Baltimore Ravens linebacker...

Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson, left, and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis talk after their game. (Sept. 13, 2010) Credit: AP

LaDainian Tomlinson has been a beast so far.

The future Hall of Fame running back looks spry and has been the Jets' most consistent offensive player this season, something many probably didn't figure would be the case.

Tomlinson's 138 yards on 22 carries puts him 14th in the NFL in rushing, and he's basically broken off at least one long run in every game -- including in the preseason.

"Just playing football," Tomlinson said this afternoon. "I'm healthy, I enjoy playing and having fun."

But the key word is healthy.

"The last couple of years, I got banged up the first game," Tomlinson said. "Last year, I missed two games after the first game, and at this point, I was battling a high ankle sprain. The year before I was battling a toe injury. So at this point, I feel like a young man. So hopefully that can continue.

"I worked very hard this offseason to make sure I was prepared for this season, and whatever it brings. And I think I'll be healthy the whole season."

Asked if he's pleased to be silencing the skeptics, Tomlinson chuckled.

"I really don't care, to be honest with you," he said. "I don't live my life worrying about what critics say because it's an opinion -- everybody has one. To me, the only thing that matters is what I think and how I feel about my performance. I'm harder on myself than anybody can be. And so for me, it's all about just going out there and just having fun and letting it all hang out."

Tomlinson's raised more than a few eyebrows. But there's one person who's not the least bit shocked at the 10-year veteran's high octane performance.  

"I can't say I'm surprised," said offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who's familiar with Tomlinson from their days in San Diego. "We saw some of this on film. He's always had passion, he's always had fire. But this is the worst guy in the world to question and criticize because he literally takes it to heart, and you see a guy that has got so much to prove.

"You can just see it. I mean, the passion, the energy. And certain plays he'll hit, guys feed off it. He's still playing at an extremely high level. I'm not going to say it's the best football I've ever seen him play. It's hard to probably match some of the things [in San Diego], but he's playing extremely well."

He's breaking a lot of tackles, too.

"I agree with that no question," Rex Ryan said. "The thing that I think is incredible is the way that he’s making people miss in the open field. We all know the great move he put on that big 30-yard run [Sunday], but the thing that was more impressive, in my opinion, was catching the pass that wasn’t one of Mark’s better efforts.

"He made a great catch and then his move in the open field off of that was like, ‘Wow.’ Is he actually better than I thought he would be? Yep, he is. I thought he was going to be outstanding, but right now, he’s even better than that. Man, he’s something else."  

Being a new father -- his wife LaTorsha gave birth to their first child, Daylen, in July -- has also given Tomlinson a new perspective on life. Now, it's no longer all about what he does on the football field.

"At the end of the day, having to go home and see my wife and my son is the best thing in the world," he said. "I can stop playing football today, honestly. I can walk away from the game today and be just as proud, saying, 'You know what? I'm going home to raise my son, build my family and be fine with it.' "

Fortunately for the Jets, that's not the case yet.

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