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Tomlinson on wild NFL off-season: I couldn’t envision this during my playing days

Football great LaDainian Tomlinson talks new endowment fund at TCU

TCU foootball great LaDainian Tomlinson and TCU announced the 'Tomlinson Student-Athlete Development Endowment Fund' on Monday. Tomlinson will host "A Night with LT at TCU" on May 16.
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TCU foootball great LaDainian Tomlinson and TCU announced the 'Tomlinson Student-Athlete Development Endowment Fund' on Monday. Tomlinson will host "A Night with LT at TCU" on May 16.

The NFL has made plenty of headlines this off-season.

Trades have been front and center, starting with the New York Giants shipping Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns, and the Pittsburgh Steelers dealing Antonio Brown to the Oakland Raiders.

Beckham and Brown are two of the best receivers and biggest stars in the NFL.

Beckham has topped the 1,000-yard receiving mark every season except an injury-plagued 2017. Brown led the NFL with 15 receiving TDs last season, and has more than 11,000 yards receiving in his career.

Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson, who isn’t too far removed from his playing days, retiring after the 2011 season, couldn’t have pictured this sort of off-season action during his career.

“No, I couldn’t envision some of the top players in the National Football League getting traded in their prime,” said Tomlinson, an NFL Network analyst who announced an endowment fund in his name at TCU on Monday.

“It’s just something that didn’t happen. At the end of the day, I feel like in the NFL, so many guys are interchangeable. You can draft guys now that have a big impact on teams.

“The way the game is played right now, so spread out, so wide open, that sometimes teams might feel they don’t need an Odell Beckham Jr. if you’ve got Saquon Barkley. That’ll buy you a couple years until you get another Odell Beckham Jr.

“The problem is, I don’t know how many Odell Beckham Jr.’s there are, or Antonio Browns. But, hey, teams do it. They move on from players. I went through that situation. It’s a part of the game at the end of the day.”

Beckham and Brown haven’t been the only big names traded, either.

The Giants also sent defensive end Olivier Vernon to the Browns, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded wide receiver DeSean Jackson to the Philadelphia Eagles and the Miami Dolphins traded quarterback Ryan Tannehill to the Tennessee Titans.

Other stars such as Khalil Mack going from the Raiders to Chicago Bears, and Amari Cooper going from the Raiders to Dallas Cowboys were traded in 2018.

Tomlinson had a standout professional career, rushing for 13,684 yards and 145 touchdowns in nine seasons with the then-San Diego Chargers and two seasons with the New York Jets. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of the 2017 class.

Tomlinson went on to talk about the evolution of the sport, adapting more principles from college football. It’s why a coach such as Kliff Kingsbury is intriguing, going from Texas Tech to the Arizona Cardinals, and why there’s so much attention on quarterbacks such as Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.

“The NFL follows the college game,” Tomlinson said. “If you think about it, it always evolves into the NFL what the college kids are doing. That’s based off the quarterbacks. They want to have these quarterbacks ready once they get to the NFL.

“The easiest way to have them ready is to say, ‘What did the kid do well in college?’ OK, how about we do what he did well in college and not make a kid adapt to my NFL style. We’re seeing that with Kyler Murray and we’ve seen it with Baker Mayfield last year.

“I think kids have more understanding that the game is changing and it looks more like what I did in college.”

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