Sproles still plans to test free agency

Updated: January 31, 2009, 9:00 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

As if trying to figure out what to do with LaDainian Tomlinson isn't enough, the San Diego Chargers also have to contend with the future of his backup, Darren Sproles.

On Friday, the running back said, to no one's surprise, that he wanted to wade into the free-agent market, but added that his desire was to remain with the Chargers.

"I'm going to test it," Sproles said Saturday, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. "It makes sense. But I like where I'm at. I want to stay a Charger."

Free agency begins Feb. 27. Sproles was third in the NFL in 2008 in kick-return yardage (53 returns for 1,376 yards). He also set career-highs with 61 carries for 330 yards and 29 receptions for 342 yards and five touchdowns.

Sproles had a coming-out party of sorts in the AFC wild-card game against the Indianapolis Colts, with 328 all-purpose yards and the winning touchdown in overtime in the Chargers' 23-17 victory.

The following week, however, in his first career start in place of the injured Tomlinson, he didn't have nearly the same impact. Sproles was held to 15 yards rushing on 11 carries in the AFC divisional game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He had a 62-yard touchdown catch, but the game already was out of reach.

Divisional: Darren Sproles highlights

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Darren Sproles has 91 yds receiving and a TD, but only manages 15 rush yds in the Chargers' playoff loss to the Steelers..

That performance only added to the notion that Sproles, at 5-foot-6, 180 pounds, is not suited to be the featured running back, and there are questions as to whether he could withstand the pounding of 16 games as a starter.

Sproles was in Tampa on Friday doing a series of interviews with radio stations at the Super Bowl media center. Sproles, who has stuttered since childhood, knows his profile is growing, and a marketing team is working with him to get him acclimated to high-intensity media situations.

By all accounts, Sproles has little difficulty in one-on-one situations, but enormous clusters of cameras and microphones sometimes hinder his communication during interviews. His appearances on radio this week are part of the learning process.

"It's time for me to do it," Sproles told the Union-Tribune, "so I can do it with more ease."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.