Before the season begins, before the comparisons start to fly, Ryan Mathews wants to clear the air.
So quit asking.
“To settle everything,” Mathews wrote on Twitter Tuesday, “I'm not here to 'replace' LT I'm here to help the team win.. If it's 2 carries or 25 I'm making the best of it all. Let's go!!”
Mathews continued on a separate tweet.
“So no more questions about replacing or pressure,” he wrote. “I'm on a team.. It's not just me..”
That's not the controversial, headline-grabbing reply some reporters may be looking for, but it's Mathews' answer, and he's absolutely right.
Eras don't replace one another – they merely follow in course. Tomlinson's time has ended, and Mathews' is beginning. No strings attached.
Will it be tempting to compare Mathews with his predecessor this season and beyond? Sure.
Mathews, whom the Chargers traded up to draft 12th overall in April out of Fresno State, will be the Chargers' primary ball carrier. Only twice has a Charger not named Tomlinson rushed 20 times in a game since Nov. 5, 2000.
Mathews is devoting extra hours after practice to develop into a strong receiver out of the backfield, which Tomlinson certainly was.
And like Tomlinson, Mathews may even attempt a pass or two — he was technically the quarterback his senior year at West High School when he threw 78 times to go with his 347 rushes.
However, until Mathews changes his number from 24 to 21, gets a lightning bolt tattoo on his calf, assumes LT's local endorsements, and insists only to respond to the initials “RM,” give the replacement label a rest.
Different person. Different era.
Let the new one play.