Tomlinson Isn't Falling for Lewis' Flattery

In NFL games that count, LaDainian Tomlinson has amassed 3,537 touches of the football.

You'll reach that total if you combine Tomlinson's 2,880 rushes, 530 receptions and 12 pass attempts in the regular season along with 96 carries and 19 catches in postseason action. Tomlinson's 10th NFL season and first in green and white will commence Monday night against Baltimore. And Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis doesn't think he's any worse for the wear.

"A lot of factors came into people talking about he's not the same anymore. If you watch the man play football, the man plays football better than probably any back in the game right now," Lewis said on Thursday. "That's one thing, if you don't respect that, he'll hurt you with it."

The 31-year-old Tomlinson, who averaged 5.9 yards on his 22 preseason carries, including long gainers of 43 against the Redskins and 20 against the Panthers, appreciates the compliments but he thinks Lewis might also be playing a little possum.

"Ray's a buddy of mine and he's been very modest," he said. "He's been saying that maybe to butter me up a little bit, but we have a lot of respect for each other. We're friends and there's not really much else to say about it. I appreciate it that he feels that way about me, but I still have to go prove the things I'm still able to do in this league."

While Lewis praised Tomlinson, he was a little bit more critical of the Jets' free-talking ways.

"That gives us a mental edge because it keeps us sharp mentally. It doesn't do anything for us physically except wanting to go out there and play harder," Tomlinson said. "Mentally you understand how they feel about you and how they perceive you and also what they're thinking about a little bit."

Tomlinson has bought into the Jets' system and he likes that head coach Rex Ryan believes in his players. The bar has been set at the ceiling and LT, who's displayed a young man's explosiveness along with sturdy blocking and special hands, is ready to jump with his new teammates.

"We're going to back what our coach says. You're a product of your head coach and the way he feels is the way his players feel," he said. "He speaks for us and so obviously when he has that kind of confidence, that breeds confidence with us. We're going to back him up no matter what he says."

Lewis sarcastically said that a danger for Ryan, his former Ravens D-coordinator, is "writing the check that  you can't cash." Tomlinson, not famous for his verbal salvos through the media, plans to let his play do the talking on the field

"I'm going to cash any check. Ray can say it — we're going to cash it," he said. "That's just a part of being confident with what we're doing. We understand you still have to play the game and we look forward to the challenge. This is a heck of a ballclub we're about to play. Let's make no mistakes about it."

Both Tomlinson and Lewis are gamers who are no stranger to the big stage. Lewis has one ring while Tomlinson is hoping to cap his Hall of Fame career with one in New York. Monday Night's a big game, but it's just one on another 16-game odyssey.

"He makes some plays and we make some plays, but the bottom line is it's a high-spirited competition," Lewis said. "We give it everything we've got against each other because we respect each other that much. He brings a veteran presence to their ballclub with wisdom on how he can get out of the backfield. I think he is a big key of their offense. I know they've got a lot of other pieces, but LaDainian is that guy who can make a lot of things happen."

With Tomlinson's Chargers days in the rearview mirror, Lewis knows No. 21 still has a few bolts left. And Tomlinson is eager to take a few of them in his first regular-season game before his new home crowd.

"I'm very excited. To see that energy in that stadium is going to be great," said Tomlinson. "I've heard so many stories about the fans and just how jacked up it is in that stadium and the atmosphere. I'm looking forward to that."

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