"He carried us," Rivers said of Tomlinson. "He had such a calming effect on the huddle, on myself. When things weren't going good we could always hand it to him. When I was struggling a bit during the first half of that season, it was never, 'C'mon, you've got to get it together.' It was just like, 'You're good, keep going.' I tend to get excited but the game was slow for him. That part was certainly appreciated as a young player."
Team President Dean Spanos said few players have had a bigger role or meant more to the team and the city than Tomlinson.
Spanos recalled being told by then-general manager John Butler on the day before the 2001 draft that the Chargers had traded the No. 1 overall pick to Atlanta for a package that included the No. 5 overall pick.
"I said, 'Great,' and then asked him who he liked with the fifth pick. I clearly remember him telling me, 'Well, there's this great running back from TCU who could help us.'
"It's funny now, but I also remember asking him, 'Is he any good?' And I remember that John said, 'Yeah, he's going to be something special.' I wish John was here today so I could thank him for making what has probably become the most significant trade in the history of the San Diego Chargers."
Butler died in 2003.
Spanos said no other Chargers player will wear Tomlinson's No. 21, and that a retirement ceremony will be held sometime in the future.
Tomlinson and Spanos both signed the ceremonial one-day contract.
"I didn't even check how much it was for. It was worth it," Spanos quipped.
"People and players like LaDainian Tomlinson don't come around very often, if at all," Jets chairman and CEO Woody Johnson said in a statement. "His humility and work ethic made it clear why he will be remembered as one of the game's best players. Without question, his next stop will be the Pro Football Hall of Fame."
Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum said Tomlinson "never took one day for granted when it came to any aspect of his performance. His commitment drew his teammates to him and elevated everyone that came in contact with him."
PATRIOTS' OWNER WINS ANNUAL AWARD: New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a key to the settlement of last year's lockout even though his wife was dying from cancer, has won the George Halas Award.
The Halas Award is given by the Professional Football Writers of America to a player, coach or staff member who overcomes the most adversity to succeed. Kraft, the 43rd winner, is the first NFL owner and first member of the Patriots to receive the honor.
While Kraft's wife Myra was battling cancer during the spring and summer of 2011, he shuttled between her hospital room and the NFL's labor negotiations — with her encouragement. Myra Kraft died on July 20, 2011. Five days later, a grieving Robert Kraft stood outside the NFLPA's headquarters in Washington as the 10-year collective bargaining agreement was announced.
FORMER 49ERS' RECEIVER, FRONT OFFICE MAN DIES: R.C. Owens, a longtime 49ers front office man and eight-year NFL wide receiver whose impressive leaping ability earned him the nickname "Alley Oop" and helped popularize the phrase, has died. He was 78.
The Niners, his team for the first of his five NFL seasons, announced Owens' death Monday. The team said he died Sunday and had been living in Manteca, about 75 miles east of San Francisco.
The 6-foot-3 Owens, a college basketball star at the College of Idaho, also played two seasons for the Baltimore Colts and his final year with the New York Giants in 1964. He had 206 career receptions for 3,285 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also ran for a score on his lone carry.
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