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The Chargers were less than truthful in giving an overly optimistic prognosis about his injury during the game, announcing that he had a “sore knee and can return.” That caused fans and commentators to question his toughness.

Tomlinson said afterward that it was obvious he couldn’t play. Coach Norv Turner got miffed when a reporter asked what Rivers and Antonio Gates should think when they played hurt but Tomlinson didn’t.

“That’s the stupidest thing you could ask,” Turner said. “The guy was not able to go. The doctors and trainers said he couldn’t go.”

Burned by that experience, Tomlinson _ always the most brutally honest employee in the Chargers‘ organization _ was forthright with the media when he sustained a serious groin injury in the 2008 regular-season finale. Tomlinson’s honesty caused Smith to bristle.

That groin injury sidelined Tomlinson in a divisional-round playoff loss to Pittsburgh, the first time he missed a game due to injury in his pro career. He had been slowed earlier that season by a toe injury.

He sprained his right ankle in the 2009 season opener against Oakland and missed the next two games.

He ran for 914 yards in 2010 with the Jets, but carried only 75 times for 280 yards last season, playing mostly on passing downs.