http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2012/apr/30/excited-gates-expects-return-form/ 'Excited' Gates expects return to form Antonio Gates dashes during offseason drills last week at Chargers Park. — John R. McCutche Written by Michael Gehlken 5:47 p.m., April 30, 2012 Antonio Gates feels like himself again. He walks without wincing. He can go places with his wife. The Chargers tight end is even back on the basketball court, competing in a local rec league. “We're undefeated, man,” Gates said Monday with a laugh. “That's all I gotta say.” At last, the most frustrating period of the All-Pro's career may finally be behind him. Gates has been a full participant in the Chargers' voluntary workout program, running and lifting with teammates for about the past week. Staying active, Gates says, is critical. Last year, he couldn't. The veteran was still recovering from a lingering plantar fascia injury, which sidelined him for six games in 2010. Due to the lockout, he couldn't receive treatment from team trainers, forcing him to heal independently from the staff that knew his body best. They're in his corner now. Gates used the word “excited” eight times during Monday's seven-minute conversation. Asked if his foot is feeling 100 percent, Gates smiled and said “we're getting there.” Asked if he expected the old Gates to return, the one who's dazzled year after year and routinely made men miss in the open field, he took it a step further. “It's definitely going to get back to that,” Gates said. “I think that's what makes me excited, coming to prove I'm still one of the elite guys at this position. That's the challenge for myself … “As you understand this league and you have experience, you understand how important the offseason is, and it definitely pays off dividends throughout the year. The fact that I am participating in the offseason program, coming here and working my tail off with the rest of the guys, that'll pay off throughout the season.” What Gates achieved last year, considering the circumstances, may be among the 30-year-old's most impressive feats yet. He wasn't cleared for activity, he says, until training camp. He started the season but missed three games during a month-long rest period, and although he returned, he didn't start feeling in shape until midway through the year. But he relied on his mental edge to catch 56 catches, 704 yards and seven touchdowns in the final 11 games, being named to his eighth consecutive Pro Bowl. Gates said he's “absolutely” stronger now than when the season ended, and through basketball, the former Kent State star is returning to his roots to help recover. “It's fun,” Gates said. “I'm not living my dream anymore. It's just for me to be stay active. I thought about doing it because I wanted to be in a position where I could continue to run, continue to make movements. “The similarities are still there between football and basketball — the cutting, the jumping and the positioning ... I just take it personal to come into training camp ready to go."