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LaDainian Tomlinson gives pep talk to San Diego Chargers

SAN DIEGO -- Yes, that was LaDainian Tomlinson taking a handoff from Philip Rivers on Saturday.

Too bad it wasn't like it used to be, when Tomlinson would find either a big hole or the end zone.

"We did a handoff for old time's sake but it was at walkthrough pace so it wasn't full speed or anything," said Tomlinson, who retired 13 months ago and visited the San Diego Chargers' training camp as part of his job with the NFL Network.

New coach Mike McCoy asked LT to speak to the team after its first practice in pads. The former star running back then taped an interview with Rivers.

"It was a great feeling, really," said Tomlinson, who played nine mostly brilliant seasons with the Chargers before finishing his career with two seasons with the New York Jets

"Mixed emotions because I started to get that feel of putting on the pads again but truly knowing that I don't need to put on pads anymore. It's over. But it was great seeing some of my old teammates, really, Philip and Antonio (Gates) and Nick Hardwick and Eric Weddle. So many guys that I went to battle with and now seeing them as leaders of this football team."

He said he talked to the players about making a commitment to themselves and each other, "and don't worry about what everybody's saying in terms of where the Chargers are going to finish in the AFC West. It really depends on what they want out of themselves and if they commit to each other and come to work every single day and think about each other, they will exceed expectations."

McCoy replaced Norv Turner, who was fired along with general manager A.J. Smith after the Chargers missed the playoffs for the third straight season.

"It's great to have a guy like that come in," McCoy said. "To have one of the greatest Chargers of all time speak to the team, he just talked about what it meant to be a Charger and how fortunate we all are to be here and kind of the way we need to approach the game."

Rivers said Tomlinson's pep talk "was solid. He and I briefly talked and it was weird having him out here, not in uniform. It was more weird for him, I bet, just because it's like going back in time, like, 'Y'all still here?' Hardwick, me and Gates, we're still doing the same thing we've been doing. He's great. It brings back memories seeing him out here."

Rivers said it was a little different being interviewed by Tomlinson, "but it was cool. It was very comfortable because it's a guy you stood there and talked to and handed the ball to many times."

Tomlinson said he likes the change in regimes but the Chargers have to improve on offense.

"It seems to be a refreshing start. Everything is a new beginning for the Chargers and I think they're approaching it that way," he said. "Obviously the key is the rebound of the offensive line. They have to be able to protect Philip Rivers. Being sacked 49 times last year is way too many for your franchise quarterback.

"If they can get their offensive line to jell, and if Ryan Mathews can stay healthy and give them some production in the running game, the defense is going to take care of themselves. They're going to be good," Tomlinson said.

Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press

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