LaDainian Tomlinson is about to become the highest-paid running back in the NFL.

Tomlinson said after yesterday's practice he has agreed in principle to a deal with the San Diego Chargers that will eclipse the eight-year, $50.5 million contract signed by the Washington Redskins' Clinton Portis in the offseason.

Asked if his deal will be worth more than that given Portis, Tomlinson replied, "Absolutely. I don't think it will even be close."

Few players have matched Tomlinson's three years in the NFL, a span in which he's rushed for 4,564 yards and 37 touchdowns.

Tomlinson, the fifth player in NFL history to rush for more than 200 yards in four games, last year became the first to rush for 1,000 yards and catch 100 passes.

"Good for him," Chargers quarterback Drew Brees said. "It's awesome and he deserves it."

The contract will be an extension to the two years he has remaining. He's set to earn $5.5 million this year and $6.5 in 2005.

Chargers General Manager A. J. Smith wouldn't confirm the Chargers agreed to terms with Tomlinson. Tom Condon, Tomlinson's agent, wasn't available for comment. But Tomlinson said it all.

* LIONS: Linebacker Boss Bailey is out indefinitely after having surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right knee.

Coach Steve Mariucci didn't offer a timetable for Bailey's return, but said he does expect to have him back this season. The Lions open the regular season Sept. 12 against the Bears in Chicago.

* GIANTS: Tight end Jeremy Shockey felt a little soreness after practicing for the first time since having foot surgery in June. Shockey felt the soreness was the result of having too much time between plays Wednesday.

Shockey, who will not play Friday in the Giants' preseason opener against Kansas City, had a screw inserted in his right foot June 22. He hurt the foot last season and aggravated it during a minicamp.

Bears' Smith Wins Debut

Lovie Smith's head coaching debut, and his homecoming, were a bit on the sloppy side.

The Chicago Bears overcame 19 penalties for 160 yards in their preseason opener, a 13-10 overtime victory over the Rams last night in St. Louis. The opening drive was short-circuited by four penalties and the Bears had been hit for 105 yards by halftime.

Ahmad Merritt returned the overtime kickoff 87 yards to the 7 to set up Paul Edinger's 25-yard field goal on the next play.

Smith was the defensive coordinator the last three years for the Rams, helping them reach the Super Bowl in 2001, and received a nice ovation during pregame introductions. He was hired by the Bears in January to replace Dick Jauron following a 7-9 season.