One man down. The next man up. That’s the way it’s going have to be for the San Diego Chargers. At least for the first four games of the regular season, the Chargers are going to be without the services of tight end Antonio Gates. Now that is a surprise. Mr. Durability, Gates has missed only one game in the past three years.
An even bigger surprise is the fact that Gates is being forced to sit down those four games because of using a substance on the NFL-banned list. This is probably the last thing the Chargers had to be concerned about in regards to their All-Pro tight end, a man who is a longtime staple in the San Diego community.
Gates spoke on the matter through a released statement from the team.
“In my 12 years in the NFL, I have taken tremendous pride in upholding the integrity of the NFL shield and all that it entails. I have taken extreme care of my body with a holistic approach and I have never knowingly ingested a substance that was banned by the NFL,” Gates said. “In an effort to recover from this past season, I used supplements and holistic medicines, and unfortunately, I have now learned that those substances always present a risk because they may contain banned substances even if the ingredient list doesn’t reflect them. As an NFL veteran and team leader, I should have done my due diligence to ensure that what I was taking for recovery was within the NFL guidelines. I understand that I am responsible for what is in my body and I have always believed that ignorance is no excuse when it comes to these issues. I take full responsibility for my actions. I’d like to express my sincere apologies to the Chargers, my teammates, coaches, fans and the league who have always supported me and expected and gotten nothing but the highest level of integrity from me.”
Gates’ suspension is a big hit to the field magic he and quarterback Philip Rivers have created over the years. Watching the Chargers play, fans expect to see a Rivers-to-Gates hookup during some point in a game, whether it’s completing a maestro performance against Super Bowl runner-up Seattle Seahawks or digging in for a big-play. Rivers and Gates have hooked 72 times for touchdowns, the most by any quarterback and tight end in the history of the NFL.
That kind of synchronicity is going to be missing in the Chargers’ first four games. For four games, Rivers will be without his pass-catching security blanket. What will the Chargers do with Gates missing one-third of the season? Turn to the future.
Ladarius Green, you’re next in line. It’s audition time. A physically gifted pass catcher with great athletic upside, this is an opportunity to show the Chargers he is the now and the future. At 6-foot-6, 240 pounds with 4.4 (40 time) speed, Green, along with rookie running back Melvin Gordon, and wide receiver Jacoby Jones, will undoubtedly stretch the field and push defenses into backpedal mode. In other words, the Chargers are going to be fine until Gates does come back.
“We are tremendously disappointed for our team and our fans as well as Antonio, but no more disappointed than Antonio is with himself. Antonio is a member of the Chargers’ family and we will continue to support him 100-percent. We have the utmost confidence he will stay in excellent shape for the season and be ready to go when he returns in Week 5. While it’s unfortunate to not have him to start the season, we have complete confidence our tight end group will continue to play at a high level,” the team said in a released statement.