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Gates’ health has Chargers eyeing the Super Bowl

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, Aug 1, 2009.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a href="http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=ap-chargerscamp&amp;prov=ap&amp;type=lgns" target="_blank">Associated Press</a>

    <div class="alignright"><a href="http://www.fftoday.com/images/img_200_antonio_gates.jpg"><img title="Antonio Gates" src="http://www.fftoday.com/images/img_200_antonio_gates.jpg" alt="Antonio Gates" width="200" height="200" /></a></div>

    SAN DIEGO (AP)-Chargers tight end Antonio Gates(notes) isn't holding back, and he predicts his team won't either.

    "Anything less than a Super Bowl championship, it doesn't exist for us," Gates said.

    Among the reasons the Chargers enter the year as a Super Bowl contender is that Gates is healthy, and he's running and cutting in a manner that hasn't been seen of late.

    The five-time Pro Bowler struggled in 2008 with a foot injury after a toe ailment the previous year. His production last season didn't decline dramatically, however, as he led the Chargers in receptions (60) and touchdown catches (eight).

    "It feels good, a long time coming for me," Gates said Saturday at the Chargers' training camp. "Just being out there and feeling good, being able to do the things I struggled with last year, it feels special to me and it feels like a special season for me."

    It was obvious Gates, a former Kent State basketball player, didn't really have his hops. Among the attributes making him a three-time All-Pro is his ability to shield defenders and out-jump them for catches.

    "My ability to jump was something that took a toll on me," said Gates, whose 51 scoring catches since entering the league in 2003 leads all tight ends. "It came in spurts at times. As the season progressed, it was up and down for me. It was a tough struggle."

    But in the Chargers' first week of summer workouts, Gates' spring has returned to his step. He is getting after passes with regularity, something he wasn't doing this time last year.

    "All my answers for my injuries were answered for me in minicamp and when I came out and practiced in the OTAs," Gates said. "That was a big step for me because I missed all of last year's offseason workouts and training camp."

    Gates' health-and that of his teammates-has some Chargers eyeing South Florida, where the Super Bowl will be held.

    With the Chargers the lone team in the AFC West that isn't rebuilding, that should present a clear path to their fourth straight playoff appearance. But after winning three straight AFC West titles and advancing to one AFC Championship Game, the Chargers want more.

    "I like this year's focus more than anything else," said quarterback Philip Rivers(notes), who threw a franchise-record 34 touchdown passes and a led the NFL with a 105.5 rating in 2008. "This locker room has a unique feel to it. We're all tired of talking about it. I think that's good, because there's a long season ahead.

    "We need to maintain that focus and intensity and progress each week to put ourselves in position come December. Hopefully we will be the best team then."

    While being a savvy Super Bowl pick this year, don't forget that last year the Chargers were 4-8 at one point. But they won their final four games and were the benefactor of the Denver Broncos' historic collapse to claim another AFC West crown.

    Once in the playoffs, they beat the visiting Indianapolis Colts but fell to the eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Divisional Game.

    Still, NFL observers view the Chargers' roster as among the most talented.

    "It isn't about having talent; it's about what you do with it," linebacker Shaun Phillips(notes) said. "The goal is to maximize what we do have."

    Among their possessions is a free-running Gates. And if all goes well, the Chargers will celebrate their 50th anniversary season by reaching their second Super Bowl.

    "It's all business for us," Gates said. "And we're looking forward to playing this year in Miami."

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