After signing with the Jets on March 17, 2022, Laken Tomlinson set up shop at LG and has remained there for 34 consecutive games. Dating to Week 2 of the 2017 season with the 49ers, Tomlinson has started 114 consecutive games at left guard.
"I have to thank God for blessing me with this body and blessing me with the knowledge it takes to take care of myself. And giving me some luck, being able to walk away from some things I know I shouldn't have," Tomlinson said after the Jets wrapped up their 7-10 campaign.
Decimated by OL injuries, the Jets used an NFL-high 13 different starters up front in 2023. Tomlinson remained the anomaly all season, lining up in all 1,101 offensive snaps after logging 1,112 snaps in 2022.
"A lot of work and they say it's the offseason but there's never really an offseason for a football player," he said. "You go right back to work, right back in the lab and what you can do to heal up from any bumps and bruises you have from the season or find ways to get stronger and faster with the knowledge you've gained."
Tomlinson, who turned 32 on Feb. 9, attended Duke and was a first-round pick by Detroit in 2015. He was traded to the 49ers for a fifth-round pick in 2017 and became a fixture on the 49ers' offensive line for four seasons. When he signed with the Jets, the durable Tomlinson had played in 6,292 of 6,294 possible snaps the prior five seasons. Two seasons into his Jets tenure, Tomlinson has remained a constant on a line that has struggled to find continuity.
"I always see myself as one of the guys." Tomlinson said. "But when you get a couple of players, could be a couple of young players, calling you OG, big dog, big vet — you get that sense of feeling like, 'Man, these guys really look up to me and really value anything I have to say.' We have a lot of young, talented guys, the right type of guys, guys who are going to go out there and ask those questions, ask those veterans those questions. But to be able to be that for them, I can only say how special that can be. When I was a young player, I had those veterans who took their time to pour their knowledge into me and now here I am doing the same to the young guys."
The Jets will emphasize the offensive line in the offseason, but they do believe they have a pair of cornerstone pieces in Joe Tippmann and Alijah Vera-Tucker.
"The future holds a lot for Joe," Tomlinson said of Tippmann, a second-round pick out of Wisconsin who started 14 games as a rookie. "Hell of a player. Everything he was asked to do this season, coming in and playing right guard, coming in and playing center, and doing all that on the fly and kudos to him. Playing in this league is tough and especially playing the center position where you have to know the X's and O's and ins and outs of every play. For him to come in and play at a level that he did on a consistent basis and holding down that position, I had a conversation with him the other day and I told him obviously the circumstances of you going in there weren't the best but having that playing experience as a rookie is invaluable."
Vera-Tucker was limited to 12 games in 2022-23 due to a triceps tear and an Achilles tear that occurred in Denver the past two Octobers. While Vera-Tucker's versatility has been a huge asset, the Jets want to find him a permanent home in 2024.
"Since I've been here, AVT has been just truly amazing. A super talented player," Tomlinson said. "Obviously, it sucks with what happened to him throughout the season and last season as well, but the talent that that kid has — it just goes to show you can go from playing the guard position to a tackle position and still play at a high level. That just goes to show that the guy they went out and scouted for, like he's the right type of guy. I am excited for AVT, him coming in and locking down a position and really showing the world the All-Pro that he can be."
Tomlinson kept an All-Pro attitude despite the shuffling around him. He said he'll look back favorably on a team that was mired in adversity dating to Aaron Rodgers' Achilles tear in Week 1 against the Bills.
"That team was special because that team showed a ton of grit and we faced a lot of adversities," he said. "We could have thrown in the towel from the get-go, but nobody gave up, everybody fought, everyone loves each other and we all went out there and fought for each other every game. So that team was truly special."
With Rodgers back in the lineup, Tomlinson thinks special things are on the horizon for the Green & White.
"Being around Aaron, it just seems to elevate everything about a person," Tomlinson said. "I know for a fact Aaron Rodgers coming in next season is going to elevate this whole franchise."