Lorenzo Neal Thinks Norv Turner May Have Lost LaDainian Tomlinson and the Rest of the Chargers
by Jimmy Shapiro
Lorenzo Neal spent much of his NFL career in San Diego with the Chargers and he spent a number of years blocking for LaDainian Tomlinson. He was one of the fiercest competitors in the game and one of the best blocking fullbacks that I can remember watching. After listening to him during this interview, he is still just as fierce off-the-field as he was on the field. I was watching the game the other night against Denver and Norv Turner decided on 3rd and goal to take out one of the best touchdown makers in the past decade and put in a 5’6 Darren Sproles to try and punch the ball in the end zone. As a football fan, I had no clue what he was doing and it left me scratching my head. While LaDainian Tomlinson may not be the same guy as a couple years ago, he’s at his best near the stripe. Tomlinson himself was visibly upset on the sidelines and apparently former Chargers fullback Lorenzo Neal didn’t think it was a very good move either as you can hear below.
The Chargers are off to yet another slow start this season Lorenzo Neal pointed to Turner as one of the key reasons for the slow starts and the overall performance the last couple of years. If the Chargers don’t turn their season around and live up to their lofty expectations at the start of the season, fans have to seriously wonder whether or not it’s time for Norv Turner to go. Lorenzo Neal joined XX Sports Radio in San Diego with Darren Smith to talk about Norv Turner taking LaDainian Tomlinson out near the goal-line, the possibility that Norv Turner has lost the locker room and whether or not Turner is a good coach.
On the disappointment to the start of the season:
“Well, rightfully so. The fans, they want a winner and they pay a lot of money for tickets and they want to see a winner and they want to see a winning team out there on the field. The Chargers played a lot better last night. You saw the defense running around and yeah, they gave up some big plays, but look at Denver. Denver gave up some big plays, but Denver found a way to win. I think there were a couple of things, a couple of turning points in that game. Let’s face it, A.J. (Smith), the coaching staff, Norv (Turner), the players; they all have to be frustrated. Let’s start with 21 (LaDainian Tomlinson). He’s got to be frustrated. I’m looking at that game watching it, it’s first and goal on the seven yard line, he picks up two yards. The next play he picks up three yards. Its 3rd down and goal from the two. You have a guy who has arguably the best nose for the end zone in the history of the game; one year he’s had over 29 touchdowns. From one to two yards, I think if you look at his rating, he must be in the 90 percentile. No disrespect to Darren Sproles. Darren Sproles is arguably one of the best return men in the league. The guy is a phenomenal athlete, he’s got great feet, quick, tough guy, has shown what he can do in this league. Let’s not take anything away from Darren. I love him like a brother, great guy, but if you’re riding in the car with somebody, if you’re willing to ride with them, you gotta be willing to die with them. If you’re gonna ride with LaDainian Tomlinson, you’re willing to die with this guy. This guy has been a leader, he’s been a pillar in this community, you don’t do that to L.T. You do not do it. I don’t care how it is. I don’t care what you say. You don’t take out the guy and put in anyone else in that situation when that guy is running the way he is running last night.”
“Yeah, LT has lost a step, but losing a step for L.T. is still as good as anybody in the league. Last night he was focused, he was ready to run and when you took that away from L.T, you might’ve lost your leader. You might have lost a guy that has been a pillar in this community, a guy that has been a diehard Charger that will bleed and die for that team. When you send that kind of message to L.T, I think you hurt your team. That’s not A.J. calling down, that’s not Dean (Spanos) calling down to say ‘hey take LaDainian out.’ That’s not them. That comes from the top. That’s the coaching staff. And Norv needs to nip that in the bud, call L.T. in the office and let him know how he feels because you don’t want L.T. disgruntled and I know that’s not L.T’s makeup, he’s always been classy, but you cant do that to that type of guy. What kind of message did you send to LaDainian Tomlinson last night? What type of message did you send to the fans last night? A guy that has a nose for the end zone, to take him out on that particular play. That should have never had happened. People are frustrated. Players need to be held accountable and so do coaches. When the Chargers started three years ago (with Norv Turner) their record was 9-7, the next year 8-8 and what is our record right now? (Host: yup under .500) Same guys, same players. There has to be accountability on every level. Norv’s got a tough job, coaches have tough jobs, players have tough jobs too because when players don’t do their job, you know what it is. Send them packing. Ask Clinton Hart. There were a lot of things in that game that got exposed, but you lose as a team and you win as a team and people gotta take responsibility where responsibility needs to be taken.”
On Norv Turner as a Coach:
“I think Norv Turner is a great coach. He has a beautiful mind offensively. As far as a Head Coach, I don’t know. The verdict is still out. Let’s look at the track record. In San Diego he’s been 9-7, 8-8, now 2-3. A coach can’t come out and say ‘hey, I’m not a head coach,’ you don’t do that. Injuries happen on every team. You can’t start saying ‘oh if this player would’ve did this, if this would’ve happened here.’ Guess what? It’s football. Deal with it. Everyone makes mistakes. Other teams get beat, but they find a way to win. If NFL coaches and players are not willing to take accountability, there are going to be some issues. Norv Turner and the coaching staff they have to really take a hard look at themselves, coaches and players alike and be willing to take criticism just as players take criticism. Be willing to own up to not getting things done just like the players are. If that doesn’t happen, you will continue to see the fall of a great team. A team that now we know is not as invincible and is not as good as they thought they were.”
(This post was written by Chris Fedor)