Antonio Gates has made peace with his reduced role with the Chargers.
The 38-year-old tight end's numbers in 2018 don't stack up to the success he had several years ago (he has 19 catches, 239 receiving yards and two touchdowns this year). However, he's ok with Keenan Allen, Melvin Gordon, Tyrell Williams and Austin Ekeler taking over the offense if it gets the 9-3 Chargers to the Super Bowl.
“It’s challenging when you become accustomed to doing something for so long and doing it at a high level,” Gates said, via ESPN. “But the bigger picture is not what I can do individually. It's more about the team and what I can do to help us win, and I just need to be ready for that time, whenever it’s called.”
Gates, who has been with the team for 15 seasons, was told in the spring he would not be needed in 2018. However, the Chargers' other tight end, Hunter Henry, tore his ACL in May, which gave Gates another shot.
“I never wanted to leave — that was the dilemma,” Gates said. “I always knew we had a chance [to win a Super Bowl], which is why I wanted to come back.
“Normally when you leave, it’s not on your terms. And for a person that’s been here, done all of this and been through the wars and they didn’t want to let me leave on my own terms — there was a lot of bitterness from that perspective. Like, ‘I can’t make the team? Whoever y’all want, it doesn’t matter, but I want to be here and I can’t get a spot?’ That’s how I felt. I remember what hurt me the most is I really thought we were going to win it this year, and I’ve got to root from afar."
Gates said he has moved on from initially being cut and is trying to stay in the moment. He said he wants to be supportive of his teammates and be 100 percent ready if the Chargers head to Atlanta in February.
“It’s in my best interest and my team’s best interest that I continue to stay positive in terms of where we’re trying to go, because at any given moment my number can be called,” Gates said. “And I could be so caught up into things that didn’t happen in previous weeks, or things I thought I could do more or didn’t get a chance to do, and now I’m not focused on the present and I could actually make a play now. I’ve played with guys who are always complaining, complaining and complaining, but with good intentions — obviously they have a point. But when you do that, you start having this negativity and that affects you more than anything.
“You start coming here and going about your business the wrong way. You start feeling a certain way about how they’re calling the plays, or the players and the coaches. You start thinking that everybody is against you, but really the big picture is we’re trying to get to a place, and if you can help us get there, you need to do your part. I’ve been in major roles and watched guys in minor roles complain. And I said to myself I never want to be that type of teammate.”