There was no sense of melancholy in LaDainian Tomlinson's voice Monday after he was released by the Chargers.
"It was a longtime coming, but I knew it was coming," he said by phone to SI.com. "Now that it's official I can kind of look to the next step in my career and playing football for someone else."
The question is, for whom? Tomlinson was the public face of the Chargers for nine mostly remarkable seasons, during which he won two NFL rushing titles and one league MVP award. He broke the league record for touchdowns in a season, with 31 in 2006, and set or tied 28 franchise records.
But that's now in his rearview mirror. In front of him lies the unknown.
"The main thing for me now is to try to win a championship," said Tomlinson, who ranks second in league history with 138 rushing touchdowns, third with 153 combined scores and eighth in rushing yards with 12,490 yards. "That's my No. 1 goal. That's why I still work hard and train like I do, because I still believe there's a chance of winning that championship. So the next team I go to has to have a chance of winning a title. I can think of a few teams off the top of my head, but that's what my agent is for. I'm sure he's going to do some research, talk to some teams and present some options to me."
Tomlinson would not discuss potential landing spots, saying he wanted to be patient and prudent. Two contenders that need help at running back are Philadelphia and New England. Green Bay could be another.
"I do know that I would have to go to a team that has a [proven] quarterback," Tomlinson said. "A place where you know you have a chance to win because of the quarterback."
Tomlinson said he likely will hold a news conference on Wednesday in San Diego to thank the fans and the Chargers for the nine seasons they shared. His production declined in each of his final three seasons because of injuries, wear-and-tear and coach Norv Turner's desire to run the offense through ascending quarterback Philip Rivers, who is one of the game's top young players.
But Tomlinson still believes he has the ability to help a team win a championship. His desire to win a title was fanned during Super Bowl XLIV, as he watched former teammate Drew Brees lead the Saints to a 31-17 victory over the Colts to earn MVP honors. The two have spoken briefly since then and figure to have more substantive conversations when they get together in the next few weeks. (Do not take that as a sign that Tomlinson is headed to New Orleans; as he says, "Their backfield looks set.")
"I was sitting at my lake house [in Texas] watching the game with family and friends," Tomlinson said. "I was so excited for Drew, but at the same time it made me even more hungry to win a championship. I'd like to get things worked out early in free agency, but I want to take my time to make sure the next place is right for me."