After missing two games with a knee injury, it's all systems go for RB LaDainian Tomlinson on Sunday. He has been a full participant in this week's practices, and he says he feels fresh and ready to return to the field in Washington.
"That was pretty much the game plan for the year was to keep me fresh and, down the stretch, possibly increase my workload," said Tomlinson. "I'm feeling good, and the coaches have that option if they want to use me more."
Before suffering the knee injury, Tomlinson had been playing less than he ever had during his 11-year career. He has only 71 total touches on the season, on pace for 110. That is well off the pace of his yearly average of 368 touches per season.
Tomlinson's former head coach in San Diego, Marty Schottenheimer, occasionally comes to the Jets facility to spend time with his son, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Recently, the elder Schottenheimer saw his former tailback and the two shared a laugh.
"Last week as I was in the training room, he said, 'I'm sorry kid. I just wore you out when you were young,' " said Tomlinson. "I said, 'Hey, Coach, I took it and I'm glad you gave me the ball.'"
Tomlinson's extreme workload helped him sculpt a Hall of Fame-caliber career. And at age 32, he said he's never felt better at this stage of a season.
"I realize it when everyone is running slow and I'm still running fast," Tomlinson joked. "Quite honestly, it's more so how your body feels on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Sometimes you're still sore. This year I don't have anything going on."
Brian Schottenheimer will be relieved to see LT return to the lineup Sunday and expects him to be his typical self.
"He's looked really good the last couple of days," said Schottenheimer. "He's excited, ready to go, and has had a good week of practice. He'll definitely be involved, he's always part of the plan, and we're pleased with how he's looked."
Schottenheimer spent time on the coaching staff in San Diego working under his father for four years and saw first-hand just how often Tomlinson was used in the offense.
"One of the things everyone has said is, 'Does he wear down?' " said Schottenheimer. "I think there are benefits of being out two games. He looks good. We have to get him the ball, get him involved."
Having Tomlinson back on the field may be more than simply the return of the Jets' third-down back. It could be the emergence of an essential weapon in an offense that hopes to make a final, strong playoff push.
"When I saw him in practice yesterday, I said, 'Wow, he looks as fresh as could be,' " said head coach Rex Ryan. "That could be interesting to have a fresh LT for the rest of the season. It could be great for us."
Pettine on Three of His Own
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine addressed the play of three of the impact players on his defense. Since joining the Jets in 2009, Pettine has been particularly impressed with the play of DT Sione Pouha.
"He's been so quietly solid for us," said Pettine. "I watched him when I first got here and I thought he had a chance. He was strong, smart and had good hands. He just had some technique issues. From the first day, he's been nothing but coachable, and he's great with the young guys."
One of those "young guys" that Pouha has helped mentor is first-year Jets LB Aaron Maybin, who continues to impress Pettine and the staff.
"He's learning more of it," said Pettine. "What he brings is such great energy, passion and a great motor. He needed to learn the fine points of the defense. As with a lot of our guys, he's going to earn playing time. We talk about playing like a Jet, and he embodies that."
Earlier this season, Pettine spoke about CB Antonio Cromartie and his up-and-down performances. Today he said that Cro undeservedly gets the short end of the stick.
"It's hard to play opposite Darrelle, because he's going to get a lot of work," said the coordinator. "Something we're concentrating on is consistency. When he makes a mistake, everybody knows it. That's the hard part about playing corner in this league."