They are used up and eventually discarded, often years before they should be looking for other work. The NFL running back is fast becoming a virtual relic. The proof of this is never more evident than now based on what happened this week as two of the league’s very best runners were jettisoned by their teams.

On the surface one wonders how it is possible that LT – LaDainian Tomlinson – who holds the all-time single season NFL touchdown record can be let go by the San Diego Chargers at the age of 30? Tomlinson is 10 years younger than quarterback Brett Favre, who is still coveted by the Minnesota Vikings and other teams. And why did the Philadelphia Eagles cut the man who is arguably their most versatile and important player, Brian Westbrook?

Obviously the Chargers and the Eagles felt that Tomlinson and Westbrook, have taken too many vicious hits and can no longer produce the way they used to. And it appears that the two teams may have a point. Tomlinson’s numbers declined sharply this season, as he finished with less than 1- thousand yards rushing for the first time in his career. And Brian Westbrook suffered a debilitating concussion that sidelined him for much of the season.

Despite their glorious history, running backs have declined precipitously in value in today’s NFL. They are no longer among the highest paid or the most respected. This is in stark contrast to the way it was. Years ago the very best running backs were compensated nearly as handsomely as quarterbacks. This is underscored by the fact that the man generally acclaimed as the greatest football player ever was a running back – the great Jim Brown.

Other players like Gale Sayers, O.J. Simpson, Walter Payton, Earl Campbell, Marcus Allen, Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders, and all-time rushing leader Emmitt Smith dot the illustrious landscape of the NFL’s history. I could go on but I think you get the point. These are all-time football superstars. What makes NFL executives think that this can’t happen again? Look at how well the Tennessee Titan’s Chris Johnson played as he became only the 5th player to ever rush for over 2 thousand yards in a single season.

But now the thinking seems to be that running backs are interchangeable. What are NFL talent evaluators thinking? But at the same time I know the NFL is a far different league than when Jim Brown played. As a result running backs have fallen pretty far. I’m just hoping that one day these disrespected runners get a chance to get back up.

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  1. Derrick says:

    This makes me wonder if my son should reconsider his position of choice as a soon to be high school freshman football player. Defensive backs, particularly safeties can have a long shelf life. They also seem to fair well when it comes to avoiding career threatening injuries.
    L.T.’s plight is another example of why football players must maximize their fame, glory and money while they can. Those who wait too late or expect the gravy train will last should talk to L.T. and Brian Westbrook. Edgerin James could offer a few tips on this subject as well.