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Both sides lose in Gates' return

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Aug 22, 2005.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    Source: <a href="http://www.pe.com/sports/football/stories/PE_Sports_Local_D_chargers_22.8e6b620.html">The Press Enterprise</a>

    SAN DIEGO - Antonio Gates signed the one-year, $380,000 contract that had been on the table for months Sunday night. He'll show up for his first Chargers practice today, he'll be welcomed with open arms, and all will be well.

    Perhaps.

    There's just been something weird, not to mention unnecessary and self-destructive, about the kabuki that Gates and team management have been a part of the past several weeks.

    The sides have had since last November to reach agreement on a multi-year contract that reflects Gates' unique talent and importance to the San Diego offense.

    Yet it took an ultimatum by the team to get their starting tight end in camp for the third-year minimum salary.

    Even then, Gates and agent Andre Colona waited until after the team-imposed deadline of 12:30 Saturday afternoon to capitulate, much like a kid who takes just that little extra bit of time after his mother calls him in for dinner.

    What was the point? Clearly, the only winners in this whole mess are Dallas Cowboy coach Bill Parcells and his staff, who can draw up a defensive game plan for the Sept. 11 opener in San Diego without having to worry about Gates.

    Upon missing the deadline, Gates immediately was put on the "roster exempt" list, under which he must miss three games -- including the opener. There's speculation, evidently floated by Colona in a Saturday night interview with ESPN Radio, that the Players Association might ask for a hearing to get the penalty reduced or removed.

    But Chargers general manager A. J. Smith said he sent that ultimatum letter to Gates' agent last week with the understanding that the three-game ban was ironclad.

    Smith was asked Sunday if he regretted sending that letter now.

    "Oh, no, absolutely not," he said. "No, no, no, no. We needed to get this thing moving, because we weren't going anywhere. Now we're moving forward."

    That's a matter of opinion. Colona has characterized the negotiations as "dead in the water," the gulf in money and years seemingly unbridgeable. The agent also has issued an ultimatum of his own, declaring that if there's no multi-year agreement by opening day Gates will play the season for $380,000 and become a restricted free agent this winter.

    In other words, the Chargers have put themselves in position to either cost themselves a lot of money or a key player.

    If Gates has another big year, the Chargers will have to either match the best offer he gets or let him go for first- and third-round draft picks.

    Which brings us back to the key question: What, exactly, kept the parties from reaching a compromise over the past 10 months?

    And if Gates' agent feels it's OK now to sign the $380,000 tender while continuing to negotiate, why didn't he get his client signed before camp started?

    No one seems to have any good answers.

    All of this is complicated by Gates' personality.

    This isn't even close to a Terrell Owens situation. Gates is a team guy, well liked by his teammates and not the type to call attention to himself or stir things up. (That's probably why Colona has been the one doing the talking, to selected media outlets.)

    The other guys in the locker room will welcome him back without reservation for two reasons.

    One, he's a likable guy. Two, this could just as easily be any of them, in an economic system where the organization usually holds the leverage.

    "When you get to the business of football ... sometimes it's a little complicated," offensive tackle Roman Oben said.

    "From a fan's perspective, someone who makes $50,000 a year is going to say, what's the difference between $3 million and $4 million, or $2 million and $3 million? Well, it's a big difference. You've got to get the most you can get and you've got to be happy and fair on both sides."

    Keenan McCardell, having experienced his own prolonged stalemate with Tampa Bay last year, said he didn't expect Gates to carry over any hard feelings toward management.

    This was just another lesson in the business of football.

    "He's going to be ready to play, and he's going to let the business handle itself," McCardell said. "His play's going to dictate the business end ... If you play well, it makes a lot of difference."

    If Gates has another big year while playing for $380,000, the Chargers will have effectively allowed someone else to control the price to keep him.

    And if they wind up missing the playoffs by a game, A. J. Smith may yet regret sending that ultimatum letter.
     

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