Tomlinson leaning toward retirement

Tomlinson leaning toward retirement

LaDainian Tomlinson's storied 11-year NFL career may be coming to a close. An unrestricted free agent, Tomlinson left the door open for a possible return if the right opportunity presents itself, but all signs indicate that the legendary running back is hanging up his cleats for good.

LaDainian Tomlinson, who turns 33 next month, is expected to retire from the NFL. He's the fifth-leading rusher in league history with 13,684 yards and will be remembered as one of the best all-purpose running backs to play the game. Last season he averaged 3.7 yards a carry, but he helped in the passing game with 42 catches, fourth most on the team. However, he said immediately after the season ended at Miami in Week 17 that he was seriously contemplating retirement.

Tomlinson told Sports Illustrated that he'd still consider playing if the right opportunity came along. The unrestricted free agent is unlikely to return to the Jets, who maintain they are content entering the 2012 season with Joe McKnight, Bilal Powell and Terrance Ganaway behind starter Shonn Greene. The acquisition of quarterback Tim Tebow, slotted for a hybrid role in the offense, could compensate for Tomlinson's loss.

Tomlinson leads all active running backs in rushing yards, has 162 career regular-season touchdowns (17 receiving) and caught at least 50 passes in eight straight seasons to begin his career.

It's hard to imagine Tomlinson not earning near unanimous support for the Hall of Fame. The fifth overall pick in the 2001 draft out of TCU, Tomlinson missed only three games in nine seasons with the Chargers. He signed with the Jets in 2010 and rushed for 914 yards, caught 52 passes helped New York reach the AFC Championship game.

Only Hall of Fame running backs Emmitt Smith (18,355), Walter Payton (16,726), Barry Sanders (15,269) and Curtis Martin (14,101) are ahead of Tomlinson on the career rushing yards list. Jerry Rice (208) and Smith (175) are the only players with more career touchdowns.

Tomlinson holds the NFL record for single-season touchdowns scored (31), set in 2006.

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