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Hey, what's the big deal? Oh, I traded Tomlinson

"You traded LaDainian Tomlinson?" they asked in disbelief before snickering as I walked by.

I did.

"You are aware that he set the NFL single-season touchdown record last season (31) and has averaged 1,538 yards rushing and 21 TDs over the last three seasons, right?"

Yep.

"He's off to a slow start, but aren't you the guy who's been preaching patience with struggling stars?"

Uh-huh.

"Did you not learn your lesson after what happened in baseball, when you made 10 trades and 25 of them backfired?"

Yes. But before you call me cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, allow me to explain my reasons for trading the game's best player.

In truth, the trade was less about getting rid of L.T. and more about getting rid of human piñata Marc Bulger, who might not live to see Week 5 playing behind the wet paper towel that has become St. Louis' offensive line.

I drafted Bulger in the third round with visions of 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns dancing in my head. But once Rams Pro Bowl tackle Orlando Pace was lost for the season (shoulder), all bets (and blocks) were off.

Bulger has had to pick himself up off the turf after every pass or hurried throw and missed open targets he'd normally hit in his sleep.

With the losses and injuries mounting, the Rams are going nowhere fast. Four starting offensive linemen have missed time due to injuries, and two are done for the season. Running back Steven Jackson is out this week because of a partially torn left groin. Bulger has two broken ribs, a bruised knee and fewer people he actually recognizes in the huddle.

After watching Bulger toss three interceptions against Tampa Bay last Sunday, I felt compelled to take action while he still had trade value. Bulger has taken and will continue to take a physical beating behind that makeshift line, and he's set up to fail -- I didn't want his failure to become my own.

Meanwhile, our resident Chargers fan pestered me for weeks about Tomlinson, going so far as to show me pictures of his baby girl wearing a Chargers No. 21 jersey.

While my buddy wanted Tomlinson, he also had the player atop my wish list: Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning.

I'd drafted three quarterbacks and considered the position a strength until Bulger's world began to cave in around him and Matt Leinart started looking like Cade McNown. My other quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, is solid but coming off a season in which everything that could have gone wrong did, and I didn't want to be completely at his mercy. Adding Manning would alleviate any and all concerns.

Also, could the Madden Curse be behind Tomlinson's struggles? L.T. declined the offer to be on the cover of the 2008 game, but maybe he isn't getting off that easy. Maybe, just maybe, being targeted by Madden is all it takes for a superstar's fortunes to be thrown in the latrine.

Though we hadn't had any serious trade discussions, I recalled my friend having said that if he agreed to trade Manning, Bulger had to be part of the deal. With those words playing over and over in my head, I glanced at his roster and quickly determined that if he would throw running back Clinton Portis my way, we had a deal. I was giving up the game's best player, but I was getting the game's best quarterback and adding a good (when healthy) back in Portis to go with an already decent group of rushers that included Edgerrin James and the resurgent LaMont Jordan.

Within minutes, we had ourselves a deal.

With any trade, one assumes risk, especially one who decides to trade the best player on the planet. I'll miss L.T., but I won't miss watching Bulger get crushed like an aluminum can nine plays out of 10 and wondering if the next pass will be his last.

So go Peyton, and keep those TDs and commercials coming.

My Week 4 lineups:

Team 1 (in second place) -- QB: Tony Romo (vs. Rams); RB: Shaun Alexander (at 49ers) and (because Portis has a bye) Julius Jones (vs. Rams); WR: Chad Johnson (vs. Patriots) and Laveranues Coles (at Bills); TE: Benjamin Watson (at Bengals); K: Nick Folk (vs. Rams); D/ST: Eagles (at Giants).

Team 2 (in fourth place) -- QB: Peyton Manning (vs. Broncos); RB: Edgerrin James (vs. Steelers) and LaMont Jordan (at Dolphins); WR: Anquan Boldin (vs. Steelers), Steve Smith (vs. Buccaneers) and Chris Chambers (vs. Raiders); TE: Todd Heap (at Browns); K: Nick Folk (vs. Rams); D/ST: Chargers (vs. Chiefs).

Stu Rosenberg's fantasy sports column runs Fridays. He can be reached at srosenberg@modbee.com or 578-2300.

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