Tomlinson brings positive charge to San Diego

Tuesday, September 28, 2004 at 1:00am

A great running back can only bang his head against the wall so many times.

That San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson had the season he had in 2003 given the lack of talent around on him on offense was phenomenal.

However, the 2004 season so far doesn�t appear as if Tomlinson will be able to keep on ticking at the same pace. With the Titans heading to San Diego this week, it will be another day of head pounding for Tomlinson.

In the first three games of the season, he has reached 100 yards only once, and that came in the season opener against Houston. This past Sunday, he managed just 60 yards on 22 attempts in the Chargers' loss to Denver.

But Tomlinson doesn�t seem concerned.

�I�m not frustrated,� he said. �I think it�s close. I think it�s hard against eight, nine men in the box all the time. And people really play you hard, and it becomes difficult at times. But hey, it will happen. You just have to be patient for the opportunities.�

What would obviously help Tomlinson is a better passing game, but the Chargers simply don�t have the personnel to make defenses account for their receivers.

�It takes a lot of pressure off the running game,� Tomlinson said of being able to throw the ball consistently. �If we were able to do that, we�ll get those [defensive players] to back up a little bit.�

Rookie Philip Rivers is backing up Drew Brees, but the quarterback isn�t the only issue. Concluded Tomlinson, �You can�t wonder about things like that, especially not during the season. The coaching staff made the choice to go with Drew and it's our job to support him and be here for Drew, and not to bring any question in the locker room. Because when you do that, it will start getting divided.�

Diaper dandies

Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil probably had to keep from crying Sunday after his team fell to 0-3 with a home loss to Houston. If he had, some wise guy might have wondered if Vermeil needed to take his diapers off.

The coach stirred up a hornet�s nest during the week of the game with some pointed remarks about running back Larry Johnson. With Priest Holmes hobbling on an injured ankle at the time, Vermeil was asked about possible replacements.

In mentioning Johnson, a second-year player, Vermeil said it was time for him �to take [his] diapers off and go to work.�

Johnson wasn�t too thrilled about the comment and said, �I don�t listen to that kind of stuff. If a man can�t say that to my face, it don�t mean nothing. I�ve busted my [tail] the whole preseason, and I know I�m ready to do my share. To make a comment like that is unnecessary.

�That�s drama. That�s Young and the Restless, General Hospital. I�m the truest of the true when it comes to playing football and playing hard. But it�s frustrating when a team brings you here and can't tell you when you�re going to play. I think that would be frustrating for anybody in my position.�

Asked if he thought Vermeil�s words were supposed to motivate him, Johnson said, �If I need motivation, I�ll talk to my father. I don�t need another grown man telling me I need to take the diapers off. That�s not how I get down.�

When told what Johnson said, Vermeil refused to back down.

�You know me � that just popped in my scrambled head. Whenever a person in leadership makes a comment like I did, even in jest, in a way there�s some truth to it. If the shoe fits, wear it.

�I like Larry. I see his talent. And I�ve spent more time with Larry Johnson than with everybody else on my roster combined in the last two years. Sooner or later he should recognize that.�

It�s hard to do that, though, when you refuse to look in the mirror.

On the Couch

Former Packers quarterback Tim Couch has filed a grievance against the team, claiming he was injured when cut by the team Sept. 5.

Couch developed a sore arm during training camp and went through stretches where he was unable to practice or play. However, he played 12 snaps in a preseason game against Tennessee a few days before he was released.

Couch visited Birmingham Dr. James Andrews recently, and was apparently told to rest his arm for two to four weeks.

Packers coach Mike Sherman doesn't appear worried.

�I read the medical report,� Sherman said. �I'm very comfortable with it; when he saw Dr. Andrews he said he needs to rest his arm.�

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