He might have a Jets logo on his helmet now instead of a lightning bolt, but LaDainian Tomlinson is feeling comfortable with his new team.
"It's football," LT said today after the Jets' latest OTA practice. "It's something I've been doing all my life and I don't think that will ever change."
After nine seasons with the San Diego Chargers, Tomlinson is two months and change into his Jets tenure. The 30-year-old back is familiar with Brian Schottenheimer's offense, so it's not like he's had to come in and learn something entirely new this spring.
"You have to kind of get into the groove again, the rhythm, how plays are run, how things are called and the timing, so that's the great thing about OTAs," he said.
The Jets and Tomlinson feel there is more than just a little gas left in the future Hall of Famer's tank. He's handled the rock 3,410 times in the regular season, but more than one critic pointed to his stat line in his last game as a Charger — 12 carries for 24 yards, three receptions for zero yards in the Jets' 17-14 AFC Divisional Round win in San Diego on Jan. 17.
"I know what he offers," said Jets head coach Rex Ryan. "His last game in San Diego, everybody was quick to point out he didn't have a big day against us. It was our day."
"But I believe he's got a lot more left. You see him out here bouncing around, doing a great job with protections, carrying the ball, and he still has that wiggle. On third-and-10 we ran the ball, we had this little fold play. He made two or three cuts. He clearly would've made 20 yards. I was like, 'Yeah, yeah, this is our guy.' "
His teammates have taken notice of LT's play and hungry attitude as well. Nose tackle Kris Jenkins sees a motivated No. 21 and said today, "LaDainian is coming out with a chip on his shoulder."
"It makes me feel great because these are guys who really don't know me and they didn't know what I was going to bring to the team," said Tomlinson. "Just to get out there and kind of show them what I can bring to the team, I think it changes a lot of guys' perception maybe of what they though before I came."
While the OTA sessions aren't full-contact, Tomlinson is getting in quality reps against the NFL's top defensive unit every time he steps on the practice field.
"It's pretty scary, to be honest with you, to see the type of things they're doing out there, the coverage that they're able to play when they do bring blitzes and try to get the quarterback and maybe take some chances with the coverage. But obviously, Revis, Cromartie and guys on the back end are able to back that up," he said. "Then you have a guy like Jason Taylor coming off the end. It's going to be fun to watch these guys. It's really impressive."
To this point, Tomlinson's professional transition has appeared seamless. On a play down by the goal line today, Mark Sanchez found a wide-open No. 21 for a short TD as the defense blew the coverage in the right flat. Darrelle Revis vocally made his displeasure known as the leader was befuddled that his teammates would leave a man who's scored 153 touchdowns (third-most in NFL history) and averaged 59 receptions a season all alone in a familiar place — the end zone.
Tomlinson took his red zone score in stride but he's celebrating the time he's having with his teammates and he's enjoying his new northeast surroundings.
"It's really great. It's been even more that I expected," he said. "My family is happy to be here."