Antonio Gates will be 36 by the start of training camp next year, but he doesn’t sound like a guy who is intent on retiring anytime soon. In the midst of a 3-10 season for the Chargers, Gates is determined to end his (likely) Hall of Fame career on a high note.
“I don’t want to go out this kind of way,” Gates said, according to Kevin Acee of U-T San Diego. “I don’t want to go out as a loser. Winning is the way, ideally, you want to go out. … I want to make one more run at it, and then if it doesn’t work, be like, ‘OK.’ That’s just my feeling right now.”
Gates says he will take a month or so after the season to assess his own desire and ability, as well as how the Chargers are moving forward. At the time of this writing, it sounds as though the tight end’s desire is still strong, but at the same time, he has been vocal about the fluctuating level of motivation that he’s seen out of some of the Bolts’ youngsters. If Gates does not envision the Chargers being a factor in next year’s AFC West, he could conceivably have a change of heart and decide to call it a career.
It’s also worth noting that Gates is not under contract for 2016, so the Chargers could theoretically opt to move on from him. Still, Gates has hauled in 45 receptions for 497 yards and four touchdowns through eight games, and that production is not easy to come by. Understudy LaDarius Green has tremendous athletic ability for his size and is believed to have serious upside, but he may still be too green (no pun intended) to be a force for the Bolts next season.
From 2014-14, Gates averaged roughly 69 catches, 875 yards, and nine touchdowns per season. He will not match that in this suspension-shortened season, but he has proven that he is still one of the game’s top pass-catching tight ends, even at his advanced age.