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Gates changes everything

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Sep 18, 2005.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a href="http://www.pe.com/sports/football/stories/PE_Sports_Local_D_chargers18.41f1ba8.html" target="_blank">The Press-Enterprise</a>

    By JIM ALEXANDER / The Press-Enterprise

    A week ago, trying to avoid the appearance of an alibi after a 28-24 opening-day loss to Dallas, Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer called Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates' absence from the lineup a "non-issue" and a "non-factor."

    "I am not interested in looking down that road because that road is one that isn't available to us," he said at the time. "We win the game and that would not even be brought up."

    But they didn't. And it was. And the full measure of just how much a factor Gates can be in San Diego's offense probably will be evident today in Denver, when he ends his punitive stay on the roster exempt list and joins his teammates for their Week 2 matchup against the Broncos.

    This is merely a guy who led his team in catches (81) and yards (964) and set an NFL record for touchdown catches by a tight end (13) in 2004, just his second NFL season. He was a consistent presence as a third-down target, bailing out the Chargers repeatedly with key catches in critical situations.

    And with Gates unavailable last week, Dallas stacked the line to control the run and blitzed quarterback Drew Brees with impunity. The Cowboys' Gates-less game plan was significant in bottling up LaDainian Tomlinson and forcing Brees into two interceptions, the last on the Chargers' final shot at the end zone with 22 seconds left.

    "Obviously, Gates is a guy who you have to worry about when you bring pressure, because who are you going to match up against him?" Brees said.

    "He's great just because of the matchup he creates. When we're trying to throw him the ball he's able to get open a lot of different ways, so from that standpoint he's a great weapon. Also, just the fact that he's on the field and people have to worry about him opens things up for other guys -- other receivers, LT in the running game, LT in the passing game."

    Tomlinson, who was held to 72 yards in 19 carries and didn't catch a pass last week, should have more room to roam today.

    "It definitely changes things a lot" having Gates back in the lineup, he said. "He's one of our playmakers. Hopefully our offense opens up a little more ... They just have to play us more honest, and I think that gives us the opportunity to run the ball a little bit more."

    The circumstances leading up to Gates' first-game absence have been rehashed: the training camp holdout, the letter of ultimatum sent by Chargers general manager A. J. Smith, Gates' reporting to the team the day after the letter's deadline, his subsequent three-game banishment to the roster exempt list and the six-year, $22.5 million contract he eventually signed.

    Smith has reiterated that he had no regrets about the ultimatum, saying after the Dallas game: "I'm sure I will be (second-guessed), but when you send the letter you know where you stand. We negotiated for 10 months and got nowhere. We had the option of the letter. My instincts told me that we probably would do a contract long-term, and I was more interested in that than the first game.

    "He's with us for six years. We'd like to have it all but we don't."

    Gates hinted that he did regret not getting into camp before the deadline.

    "Obviously, I wanted to be there (on the field last week), and I wanted to be here long-term," he said. "Things happen, and you learn from them ... I feel like I let the team down because I wasn't there for them last Sunday."

    His concern today will involve just how close to game shape he is. After three weeks where he wasn't running with the first team -- including a week where he was on the scout team, impersonating Dallas tight end Jason Witten -- Gates was back with the starters this past week.

    "Obviously, the game will let me know what kind of shape I'm in," he said.

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