LaDainian Tomlinson has never seen a locker room as troubled as the one he was in with the New York Jets this season.
In an interview with Showtime's "Inside The NFL" airing Wednesday night, the running back said the team was plagued by tension between players as the Jets finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs after two straight trips to the AFC championship game. Tomlinson said quarterback Mark Sanchez and wide receiver Santonio Holmes, in particular, had a rocky relationship.
"It is as bad as I've ever been around, honestly," Tomlinson said of the locker room. "And I've been around some locker rooms and quarterback-receiver situations and what-not. But it was as bad as I've been around."
The NFL's fifth-leading rusher added that the problems got "out-of-hand toward the end of the season," and were created by the brash approach of coach Rex Ryan and general manager Mike Tannenbaum.
"This is the type of football team that they wanted," said Tomlinson, the NFL's fifth-leading rusher. "Mike Tannenbaum, Rex Ryan are both brash, in-your-face type of style — say whatever you want, just get it done on the field. And then it leads to other things, as guys are calling each other out and saying, 'I'm not getting the ball' or whatever it may be."
Holmes was benched during the season finale at Miami after arguing in the huddle with teammates. Tomlinson said the tensions escalated to the point during the season where the players couldn't do anything about it.
"When it gets to that point, there are certain changes that need to happen," he said. "Can it be fixed? I think absolutely it can be, but they're going to have to make some tough decisions."
Holmes criticized the offensive line during the season, saying it wasn't protecting Sanchez enough or giving him enough time to get the ball down the field to the receivers. Right guard Brandon Moore shot back, saying his public comments could have a "fracturing effect" and not the way a team captain — which Holmes was — should conduct business.
Tomlinson was asked if he would bring back both Sanchez and Holmes, given all the problems.
"Whew, that is a tough one," Tomlinson said. "I would really have to sit down with them and see if they can co-exist, honestly. I mean that is a decision that I really have to make. And if I really feel like they can't, then you have to make a move."
Tomlinson said the Jets players poked fun at the feud, calling it the "East Coast-West Coast beef," with Holmes being from Florida and Sanchez from Southern California.
"In all seriousness, Santonio, obviously, he is a great player," Tomlinson said. "There are some things that obviously he needs to work on as far as being a leader."
Sanchez struggled down the stretch, throwing seven interceptions in the Jets' last three games — all losses. He was highly criticized during the season by fans and media, and those comments intensified after the Jets' final game. The Daily News quoted an anonymous player saying Sanchez was "lazy," something Tomlinson disputed. But the running back agreed that Sanchez was "a bit pampered" because he had no real threat in the roster to take his job.
"He is not a lazy guy," Tomlinson said. "He puts in the time after practice in the film room. He can get it done. He just has to have pieces around him to help him get it done."
The 32-year-old Tomlinson will be a free agent after two seasons with the Jets, and is considering retirement.
"I love playing for Rex," Tomlinson said before adding that he wished the coach would tune down the bravado.
"I don't mind every now and again saying we are going to win a championship," he said. "Maybe at the beginning of the year just saying, 'Hey, our goal is to win a championship.' But at the same time every week if you are calling out a team on certain things, I think it puts a little extra on your team. Guys really want to go out there and say, 'Let's shut this guy up. Let's shut these Jets up, just end their season.'"