Now that we know LaDainian Tomlinson is returning to the Jets in 2011, the question is: In what role? There's little doubt he will have a smaller role than last season, perhaps even as the third-down back -- and he's OK with that.
In an interview with ESPNNewYork.com Friday, Tomlinson said he's ready for whatever role the Jets ask him to fill.
"This seems to come up every year, my role," he said from Orlando, where he was a guest of ESPN the Weekend. "I really don’t know. I’m just going to play football."
Asked point blank if he'd be happy as a third-down back, Tomlinson replied, "I’m under contract. If that’s the way they see it, I have to make that the best possible role that can be made. I’d just play my role and try to be a best third-down back there is."
That'll be one of the storylines in training camp. Tomlinson began last season as the No. 1 back, outplaying Shonn Greene in training camp, but he gradually ceded carries to Greene. Over the second half of the season, it was just about a 50-50 split. In 2011, Greene will have a chance to be the No. 1 back, with second-year RB Joe McKnight also vying for time.
It's quite possible that Tomlinson, a future Hall of Famer, will be a secondary/third-down back. And that wouldn't be a bad thing, considering how well he catches the ball.
Tomlinson said he still hasn't heard anything from the Jets since the season ended, but he always assumed he'd be back with the team because he has one year remaining on his contract.
"Because I’m under contract, I didn’t think any communication from their part needed to happen unless they were telling me they were moving on," Tomlinson said. "I guess it’s business as usual. I didn’t expect a call."
Tomlinson said he isn't worried about a potential lockout in terms of how it will affect his preparation for the season. If there's a lockout, the players are on their own, barred from the facility.
"I’ve been in the league long enough to know how to get myself ready to prepare for a season," he said. "The thing I’m concerned about is, what are we going to do as far a team-wise? Are we going to get together and go somewhere, maybe a couple of weeks of working out on the field together? That’s my whole concern.
"When the season does happen, say it’s late august or September, we don’t want to look like a team that’s not prepared to play football. Rex Ryan says he expects us to win a Super Bowl next year and we have to hold up our part of it."