The Chicago Bears players and their fans are accusing Chargers fullback Lorenzo Neal of being a dirty player. I’ll believe that when New England Patriots coach/spy Bill Belichick is compared to Honest Abe Lincoln.

What’s next? Roger Staubach is seen protesting out front the gates of Annapolis?

LaDainian Tomlinson takes on a Chad Johnson or Terrell Owens persona? Alan Page, Purple People Eater turned judge, breaks the law instead of ruling on it?

The Bears accused Neal of tearing Chicago safety Mike Brown’s ACL with a dirty play on a block. People in Chicago obviously don’t know much about Neal, a three-time Pro Bowler and one of the most respected NFL players among his peers.

The 15-year veteran can’t take a warmup lap before games without opposing players greeting him. Dirty players don’t have a long list of friends.

Lorenzo Neal and Philip Rivers. Photo: Sam Hodson

Late last year, when Neal had been named to his third Pro Bowl, Tomlinson was explaining Neal’s respect around the league.

“You see guys from the other team jog out on the field before the game, and they always talk to him,” Tomlinson said. “They say, ‘Hey, Lo!’ When somebody does that, you know they respect him. I’ve seen it time and time again — they want to talk to him.”

The Chargers’ next home game was against the Denver Broncos, so I checked out Tomlinson’s story.

Sure enough, that’s what happened. Neal and backup running back Michael Turner took a casual lap around the field two hours before kickoff. Veteran Denver linebacker Al Wilson was the first Bronco they encountered. Wilson stopped Neal, they embraced and chatted. Turner kept jogging without missing a step or looking back to see if he should wait for Neal.

“I saw Al and I knew he would stop him,” Turner said. “He and Al have been having some battles over the years.”

— TOM SHANAHAN

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