TE Gates wants to be back for 17th season with Chargers
Last February, Antonio Gates believed he had played his last game for the Los Angeles Chargers, and perhaps in the NFL. Now the 38-year-old wants to be back for a 17th season with the club. After Gates and the Chargers lost to the Patriots in New England 41-28 in the AFC divisional round on Sunday, the future Hall of Fame tight end talked about his career and told reporters he doesn't see how it can end now. "I just don't see myself walking away with this taste," Gates said.
"And plus this team. I think when you add Hunter (Henry) back, and hopefully we get (defensive back) Jason Verrett back -- shoot, the sky's the limit. And I want to be a part of it. "But that has to be a collective decision. I can't just want to come back. So we'll see how it goes." It was Henry's injury that actually landed Gates on the Chargers' roster this season. Gates became a free agent following last season and the Chargers -- the only team for which Gates has played -- told Gates and his representation in February they would not re-sign him. Gates announced he intended to keep playing, but with a different team.
But when Henry suffered a torn ACL in May, the team was hurting in both experience and depth at tight end. At that point, Virgil Green was the only tight end on the roster with an NFL catch. The team signed Gates on Sept. 2, a week before the season began. Gates finished the season with 28 catches for 333 yards and two touchdowns while playing in all 16 regular-season games. He added nine catches for 76 yards in two playoffs games, catching a touchdown with less than a minute left on Sunday -- the last touchdown the Chargers scored this season.
"I want to be sure to remind them that I want to come back," Gates said. "I want to be part of something special, and I think we have that here. But that's out of my control in the sense where I can only do what I can do. And we'll see out it goes." In 16 seasons, the former Kent State basketball player has 955 receptions for 11,841 yards and 116 touchdowns in the regular season. The receptions and yardage totals are third among tight ends in NFL history, while the touchdowns are a record for the position. Gates' 89 regular-season touchdown catches from Philip Rivers are the most by a quarterback-tight end combo in NFL history.
(With inputs from agencies.)