LaDainian Tomlinson accepted his new role without hesitation or complaint. “For the good of the team” has always been his creed, so when Rex Ryan first introduced the idea of making him Shonn Greene’s backup, Tomlinson said OK.
“I really wasn’t shocked,” Ryan said of the running back's reaction, “because it’s LaDainian. This guy is a tremendous person, player and a team guy all the way. What’s best for the team, he’s all in for.”
The team’s decision to use Tomlinson in third-down situations this season was not a reflection on the 32-year-old’s skill level, the coach insisted.
“This guy can still be an every-down back,” Ryan said. “But I just think for our team it just fit us better that he would be a third-down specialist, a reserve back and let Shonn take the brunt of the other snaps. We’re blessed. We’re about as deep as it gets at running back. But obviously if something were to happen with Shonn on a permanent basis, LT would go in there and we’d feel happy that we had LT in there.”
But at least for one day, Tomlinson will have to go back to being The Guy.
With Greene sidelined with a skin infection, the 11-year veteran will start Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. Greene is expected to be back next week, according to Ryan, but just in case the injury lingers, Tomlinson’s prepared to shoulder the load for the long haul.
“Obviously I’ve been in the position where I had to carry as many times as I’ve needed to and be the full-time guy,” he said. “I don’t expect that to be the case, but if it is, that’s what we’re dealt with and you just adjust.”
Greene’s absence also will give rookie Bilal Powell an opportunity to impress the coaching staff.
“We’ve seen flashes that Bilal can be a very good player in this league,” Tomlinson said of the 5-10 Louisville product. “As a rookie, these are times that you look forward to, you take on the challenge of proving even more what kind of player you can be.”
As for Greene, Ryan couldn’t give specifics on where the injured running back was Thursday morning or where on his leg the skin infection is located. But he did say Greene has to keep his leg elevated to relieve the swelling.
"Nobody seems too concerned with it,” the coach said.
Asked if the Jets are taking additional sanitary measures to ensure infections don’t spread among the other players, Ryan said: “You can eat off these floors. They clean it like crazy. …We’ve never had an issue like that and hopefully we never will. You can’t take care of this building better than we do in my opinion.”
(Note: A team spokesman clarified Greene's injury Friday afternoon. While the running back was getting calluses on his feet shaved, he pointed out another area of skin that was later diagnosed as a "routine" skin infection. Running on an infected foot can cause swelling. There was no pus or fluid.)