Commentary

LT psyched for another shot at Pats

Jets running back eager to atone for playoff failures during days as a Charger

Updated: January 15, 2011, 10:43 AM ET
By Ohm Youngmisuk | ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- LaDainian Tomlinson tried to keep his postseason history against the Patriots in the past.

But one of the NFL's greatest rushers won't be able to outrun his New England ghosts until he's able to stiff-arm his postseason nemesis for once.

"Now it seems like I get a chance to redeem myself," Tomlinson said. "Having this opportunity ... My hair is going to be on fire."

Tomlinson chuckled as he said that. But even though Tomlinson isn't pulling a Rex Ryan and saying this is personal, the running back has as much reason as any Jet to dislike the Patriots.

The Patriots have stood in his way of reaching a Super Bowl twice, beating him while with the Chargers in the playoffs in 2007 and 2008.

During that latter encounter in New England, Tomlinson was forced to watch most of the 21-12 AFC Championship Game loss to the Patriots on the sideline with a parka and helmet on due to a throbbing knee injury.

Tomlinson touched the ball just three times -- he had two carries for 5 yards and one reception for a yard -- after suffering a knee injury in the Chargers' previous win over the Colts.

"It was the most frustrating thing I've been through in my career," Tomlinson said. "It was a long shot going into the game with a sprained MCL. I told my guys I would give you everything I have but it wasn't much."

Certainly, Tomlinson wanted to play against the Patriots because of what had happened in the previous postseason against them. Following a 24-21 loss to the Patriots in San Diego in 2007, Tomlinson had to be restrained after being angered by a few Patriots dancing on the Chargers' midfield logo. They celebrated the win by mocking Shawne Merriman's "Lights Out" dance.

[+] EnlargeLaDainian Tomlinson
AP Photo/Stephan SavoiaLaDainian Tomlinson sat out for most of the Chargers' 2008 playoff loss because of a sprained knee.

After that loss, Tomlinson lashed out at the Patriots and Bill Belichick.

"I would never react in that way. I was very upset," Tomlinson said then. "That is disrespectful. They showed no class and maybe that comes from the head coach."

This week, Tomlinson said he holds no grudges toward the Patriots -- unlike teammate Antonio Cromartie, who expressed his dislike for Tom Brady with profanity.

"More than anything, LT just wants another chance at winning a ring," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "I was obviously out there for that game, my dad was the head coach [of the Chargers in 2007]. More than anything he knows this is one step closer to get to a Super Bowl. It was fun to see him play the way he played last week."

Tomlinson, 31, is coming off his best game in months. He rushed for 82 yards and two touchdowns in last week's wild-card win over the Colts and clearly had some bounce in his step.

It was the first time Tomlinson had two touchdowns in a game since Oct. 3, when he had two scores and 133 yards against the Bills.

Prior to the Colts win, Tomlinson failed to gain more than 49 yards in his previous six games. From the end of October through the middle of December, Tomlinson went eight games without a touchdown. But the Jets rested him in the final game of the regular season and Tomlinson says he feels as fresh as he ever has in the playoffs.

"Since '06, this is the healthiest I have been," said Tomlinson, who once rushed for 217 yards and two touchdowns against the Patriots in 2002 with the Chargers.

This season, Tomlinson has rushed for 76 and 47 yards in two games against the Patriots and he has a total of six receptions for 40 yards and no touchdowns in those games.

On Sunday, Tomlinson hopes to score his first touchdown as a Jet against Belichick, and add to his total of seven career rushing touchdowns against New England -- the most by any active player against the Patriots.

Nothing would be sweeter for Tomlinson than to do his patented finger-roll touchdown celebration against the team that has stood in his way of getting to the Super Bowl twice.

"Over the years, the Super Bowls they have won, they have been the dynasty," Tomlinson said. "It is kind of like the Cowboys in the '90s. To me, the Patriots have been that dynasty.

"If you want to win a championship, you expect the Patriots to be somewhere in the mix. Patriots, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, those are the type of teams that you expect to be in your way."

Ohm Youngmisuk has covered the Giants, Jets and the NFL since 2006. Prior to that, he covered the Nets, Knicks and the NBA for nearly a decade. He joined ESPNNewYork.com after working at the New York Daily News for almost 12 years and is a graduate of Michigan State University.
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