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'LT' ready for lift-off

ALAMEDA -- San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson is seven years into a career that could culminate with his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Upon delivering his acceptance speech, Tomlinson should include a special thanks to the Raiders for doing more than their share in making that possible.

Tomlinson has rushed for 9,505 yards in 100 games. Of that, 1,355 have come against the Raiders.

Why so many yards against one team? Simple, Tomlinson said.

"It was Marty," Tomlinson said in reference to former Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer. "Marty had a mind-set that he just didn't like the Raiders. He wanted to try to punish them. The common theme was Marty Schottenheimer."

Schottenheimer earned a reputation in 21 seasons as an NFL coach for relying upon a relentless rushing attack, combined with a blue-collar defense and strong special teams play.

Against the Raiders, he emphasized the run, especially during his tenure with the Chargers from 2002-06. With Schottenheimer having been fired after last season, Tomlinson said things are much calmer leading up to a game against the Raiders.

"He didn't like the Raiders at all," Tomlinson said in between chuckles. "He couldn't stand the Raiders. I don't think he ever worked there. I don't know, he just never liked the Raiders. It was always, for him, a little more personal. ... Marty downright just hated the Raiders."

Now that Norv Turner is in charge, that doesn't mean the Raiders should expect to see any less of Tomlinson, several Raiders defenders said, even if he's off to a slow start this season.

"It doesn't matter what he's been doing," middle linebacker Kirk Morrison said. "We know what he's capable of. He can score at any time."

Tomlinson isn't the only player the Raiders have to keep their eyes on. If Chargers tight end Antonio Gates is everywhere today, that's because of the way he's being used in Turner's offense. Gates has 40 receptions for 489 yards and three touchdowns. His teammates combined for 62 receptions during that span.

"Last year, we thought, 'This is all we can get out of this offense,' but he's been around this offense for so long and does so many different things," Gates said of Turner. "You're like, 'Wow, I didn't think we could do any more.' ... It's just exciting, man."

For Gates, maybe. Raiders strong safety Michael Huff might have a different take. He's the one who figures to cover Gates most of the time today.

"Wherever he's at, I'll be on him," Huff said.

This season, that means at tight end and, on occasion, lined up wide as a receiver. Turner's passing attack revolves around Gates, as evidenced by his average of eight receptions a game.

Cornerback Stanford Routt has covered Gates at times the past two seasons. He said you can't be in too much awe of the player who stands 6 feet 4 inches, weighs 260 pounds and has outstanding speed and leaping ability.

"He's, obviously, one of the best tight ends in the league, if not the best," Routt said. "But at the end of the day, he's just a football player. ... We're not going to change up things for him."

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