By all accounts, San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates is looking about as healthy as he has in a while. Exactly what that means is up for debate since he hasn’t really been truly healthy since 2007. It’s clear that situation has helped the 32-year-old put things in perspective.
Gates says the situation in San Diego this year is much like a poker game, where the chips are all in. He believes the Chargers can do something special, and his teammates seem to think he’ll be a key part of it after safety Eric Weddle told ESPN that Gates will be the best tight end in the league.
Antonio Gates joined XTRA Sports 1360 in San Diego with Steve and Judson to discuss helping younger tight ends, his health at this point in his career, what he meant when he said there were no more prima donnas on the team, the play of Philip Rivers and the start of the preseason schedule.
What do you do for young tight ends on the squad to help them learn the offense?:
“I think, to me, the number one thing you have to understand is that you have to, for one, get mentally prepared to play this game. And then that allows your talent, your physical ability, to take over. The game is so fast. I think, in order to get on the football field, you have to understand what to do and when to do it, because you have to be on the same page as an offense.”
Have you followed the national conversation and what great things people are saying about your health?:
“No, not really. I think, for me, it’s just to get back to what I’m capable of doing from a physical standpoint. The last couple of years has just been an uphill battle, from an injury standpoint. And you can just see a sense of urgency, not only in myself, but in this team, and what we can accomplish. One thing I’ve learned is that the opportunity, the window of opportunity, definitely gets smaller and smaller … so I just want to take advantage of a group of guys that I really feel, in my heart, can go out and do some things special. It’s kind of like in poker, you’ve just got your chips all in.”
On the heels of you saying there are no more prima donnas on the team, what do you like so much about the mentality of this group?:
“Just the blue-collar work. Everybody’s accountable, from top to bottom. And when I say from top to bottom, I mean from the head coach all the way down to the fourth-string kicker. Everybody’s held accountable for their actions. Last year was a learning experience for us. There was some uncertainty of whether or not some guys would return. There was some uncertainty in my situation. … That’s something that you learn from guys that have been around, that, hey, we have an opportunity. Let’s embrace it.”
What makes Philip Rivers great in your eyes?:
“The number one attribute that sticks out in my mind, when I first met the guy, from Day One, when he wasn’t even playing in the game, was his leadership ability. To me, every great quarterback has that leadership ability. His ability to kind of keep us together as a unit, trying to continue to build that camaraderie, that cohesiveness. … The fact that he’s always in a position where he’s helping guys. … You can tell he’s a coach’s son. He has that ability to lead a team.”
How much do you hope to play against Green Bay on Thursday?:
“It’s one of those things where I get as much as I need. It’s a situation where you can always get better, especially from a mental standpoint. … Mentally, the capacity is unlimited. You can continue to grow. Whatever it takes for us to grow. … I have no idea how much we will play together, I’m not sure, but whatever it takes for us to be on the same page come Game 1, I’m willing to do that.”