His former quarterback said LaDainian Tomlinson's departure gives the San Diego Chargers more freedom. Another ex-teammate hinted that Tomlinson wasn't a team-first player.
Now a Jet, Tomlinson has heard the criticism coming out of San Diego, but he's taking the high road, he told the *New York Post* on Monday.
Tomlinson's comments came one day after Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers indicated that he could more decisively lead his team without the five-time Pro Bowl running back in the mix.
"I don't know how everyone feels or if they felt it," Rivers told the *The San Diego Union-Tribune*. "Maybe it was a little bit of a relief. Maybe it's a feeling of, 'I can do a little more without wondering what he thinks.'"
"Sometimes you would get the sense that people felt bigger than the team," Gates told The Union-Tribune. "Not to say it was an issue, but we know it's not an issue for sure now."
Despite those harsh words, Tomlinson wasn't willing to fire back at his former teammates.
"It doesn't hurt me, but nothing surprises me because guys want to speak their opinion on things," Tomlinson said. "Junior Seau went through the same thing with guys when he was the big star and he left the team and guys said how they felt about him. It's the same situation. Good luck to those guys."
Rivers did acknowledge last month on NFL Network's "NFL Total Access." that Tomlinson's absence would be felt in San Diego.
"A guy that's done what he's done both on and off the field, what he's meant to our franchise, not seeing him in the locker room, not seeing him in the meetings, it's been a little different for me," Rivers said.
Tomlinson, who was the NFL MVP in 2006, was released by the Chargers in February after nine brilliant seasons in which he became one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. But he was injured early in the 2009 season and finished with 730 yards on 223 carries for an average of 3.3 yards per carry, all career lows.
Signed by the Jets in the offseason, Tomlinson is determined to prove his growing chorus of doubters wrong.
"I just want to prove that I'm not done," Tomlinson said Tuesday. "I still can make plays and I'm still a valuable part of the team. That's what it's about, and I'm eager to do that."
At 31, Tomlinson is on the downside of his career, but he and the Jets are convinced he can help them in their quest to win the Super Bowl.
"Oh, he's still quick," second-year running back Shonn Greene said. "He's still got that quick step and he's very versatile. He can do a lot of things, line up in the slot, outside. I think he still has it."
The Jets must think so, even after watching Tomlinson struggle against their defense in the postseason when he had 24 yards on 12 carries. They signed him to a two-year deal.
Tomlinson is eighth on the NFL's career rushing list with 12,490 yards. Once one of the league's most dynamic players, Tomlinson is expected to back up Greene and do whatever he can to help an offense that ranked first in rushing a year ago.
"This is my first time going live in practice in all my years and I love that because it's football, and you're going to get hit," Tomlinson said, smiling. "The quicker you get acclimated to getting hit and being on the ground, it's better for you when the games start."
Tomlinson routinely saw limited action in the preseason with San Diego, not playing much -- if at all -- during games. He'd like that to change this summer.
"I want to play," he said. "I want to be with the guys. Everybody else is going to play, and I want to be a part of that."
When the Jets did their conditioning test Sunday, trainers advised Tomlinson not to take it because he tweaked a hamstring a few days earlier.
"I said, 'Guys, listen: There's no way my first day here I'm going to sit out and not run and take this test. I want to be with everybody else and do it,'" he said. "They asked me if I was sure, and I said, 'Yeah, I know my body.'"
Sure enough, Tomlinson passed and has looked solid on the field through three practices.
"He had a bounce today," Ryan said, "that I was like, 'Wow!"'
Tomlinson acknowledged that it's a bit surreal practicing with the Jets' defense after playing against it for so many years.
"It's kind of weird," he said, grinning. "I've always said, 'If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."'
One lasting image Jets fans might have of Tomlinson is when he made a vicious cut that froze cornerback Ty Law in his tracks during a 2005 game at the Meadowlands. Asked if he could still pull off one of those ankle-twisting plays, Tomlinson laughed.
"Oh, yeah, absolutely," he said. "If you ask those guys, I think they'll tell you that I've still got some of that in me."
Notes: Backup QB Kellen Clemens (left calf) practiced for the first time after starting camp on the active physically unable to perform list. DT Kris Jenkins (hamstring) still isn't practicing. ... Ryan raved about K Nick Folk: "I'm officially not worried about our Pro Bowl kicker anymore." Folk, a Pro Bowl selection in 2007 with the Dallas Cowboys, was shaky through the offseason workouts, and Ryan acknowledged he was concerned about the kicker's performance.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.