<strong>July 29, 2005</strong>
Source: <a href="http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2005/07/29/sports/professional/chargers/22_30_587_28_05.txt">The North County Times</a>
On the same day a new weapon in the Chargers passing game finally agreed to terms, the team's most heralded pass catcher failed to report to camp.
The Bolts closed the deal on a five-year pact with rookie wideout Vincent Jackson on Thursday, but Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates was a notable no-show as players reported to the team hotel on the eve of the Chargers first full-squad practice.
General manager A.J. Smith did not make himself available for comment, but the team did release a statement acknowledging the absence of Gates, who is unable to report because he has not signed a contract.
Gates was listed as an exclusive-rights free agent and has not signed a tendered contract of $380,000. Both he and the team had been trying to hammer out a multiyear deal during the offseason.
Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer was also unavailable for comment Thursday, but when asked about Gates' contract situation on Wednesday, he denied any knowledge of the impending holdout and said he expected Gates to show.
Gates has been in attendance at the team's offseason workouts despite his contract situation, which he addressed at the team's first minicamp in May.
"I'm more of a team guy, and I play an imperative role in the offense," he said at the time. "And I want to make sure my teammates know that I'm going to be there for them."
Though he also added: "My preference is that something will get done. If something won't get done, no telling what happens."
Last season, the second-year player out of Kent State burst on to the scene as one of the top tight ends in the NFL. He was quarterback Drew Brees' favorite target, leading the team with 81 receptions for 946 yards. He also set a single-season league record for tight ends with 13 touchdown grabs.
He did it while making a base salary of $305,000 ---- a lower figure than 62 other tight ends, including Chargers teammate Justin Peelle.
By comparison, Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez has a seven-year contract that pays him an estimated $4 million a year. Ravens tight end Todd Heap recently inked a six-year pact that could eventually pay him $30 million.
The signing of Jackson, meanwhile, leaves just one draft pick still holding out. The team's top pick in the first round ---- Maryland linebacker Shawne Merriman ---- remains unsigned and out of camp.
Jackson, who was not yet in San Diego when his deal was finalized, will report to camp today.
Taken with the 61st pick overall out of Northern Colorado, Jackson is an impressive specimen at 6-foot-5, 241 pounds. He stood out as a wideout and a punt returner during his career with the Bears, catching 177 balls for 3,548 yards and 37 touchdowns. Last season, he was named a Division I-AA All-American.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Neil Schwartz, Jackson's agent, did not return a phone call Thursday.