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Gates: Injury-plagued '08 a 'blessing'

Discussion in 'American Football' started by Johnny Lightning, Aug 14, 2009.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006

    August 14, 2009 12:00 PM

    Antonio Gates said this has been the best training camp of his career.
    Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

    Antonio Gates would have never imagined this 10 months ago, but he said his injury-plagued 2008 was a "blessing."

    Gates truly believes it made him a better, more complete football player.

    "I can't wait for this season to start because think I'm going to be at my best ever," Gates said. "I really believe that."

    That's a huge statement from a perennial Pro Bowl tight end. Gates, 29, is still very much in his prime. And he was productive last season despite dealing with a serious toe injury before suffering an ankle injury late in the season
    Gates simply took over in several games and finished the season with 60 receptions for 704 yards and eight touchdowns. Looking back, however, Gates doesn't know how he made it through the season.

    The toe injury bothered him terribly for the first half of the season. He couldn't run and jump the way he was used to and seriously considering shutting himself down for the season because the injury hampered him so much.

    "I wasn't Antonio Gates," he said. "I was like Tonio Gates. Take out the 'An.' It just wasn't me the whole way."

    One benefit of the injury is that it made Gates focus on his playbook.

    "For the first time, I really got into the mental part of the game. I never had to before," Gates said. "But I couldn't be productive last year the way I was productive before ... I just couldn't run faster and jump higher than people. I had to become a smarter player ... I've heard guys resort to that in their mid-30s. But I had to do it early ... And I'm glad I did. It made me a better player. It was a blessing."

    Now that he is completely healthy, Gates can't wait to hit the field in 2009. He said this training camp has been the best of his career.

    Gates is a special part of San Diego's offense. At full strength, he could spark a long playoff run by the Chargers.

    The Chargers like what they see as well. San Diego safety Eric Weddle said he definitely has noticed a more knowledgeable Gates this summer.

    "I remember my rookie year [in 2007], covering Antonio was difficult because he was so skilled physically, but he would just look at me during his routes," Weddle explained. "Now, he is looking all over the field, really [absorbing] the play. You can tell he is really trying to sell the play more .... And he is still so skilled physically. So in the end, he's tougher to cover now."

    Added San Diego coach Norv Turner: "Antonio has worked hard to improve. He is one of the game's best and he works at it."

    And it all goes back to his toe injury.

    When I interviewed Gates in last summer's camp, he expressed great doubt about the toe injury. He was truly worried it would keep him out for the season or take away all of his abilities. This summer, Gates was explaining how he turned that experience into an excuse to get better by immersing himself in the aspect of the game he never felt a need to delve in to.

    He studied film and game situations like never before. He studied routes and defenders and found new ways to get open and play against certain defensive schemes. He watched practice from more of a coach's view than a player's. The game slowed down. He finally had time to watch the game and absorb it rather than just go out and play it.

    Gates, who hit the weights hard this offseason and believes he's in the best shape of his career, will rely on his knowledge as well as his athletic ability.

    "If I didn't get hurt, I probably would still be relying too much on my physical ability," Gates saod. "Now, though, this is only going to help me stay in this league for a long time."
  2. Enormo

    Enormo BoltTalker

    Jul 22, 2007
    I usually chalk up these types of stories to preseason hyperbole but gates is an elite dude with his head on his shoulders. If 1+1 does equal two then he's going to be a monster.

    And if the Oline can come together this offense is going to be a multi-headed monster.

    BOLT POWER Well-Known Member

    Oct 21, 2006
    if he is going to be a better more durable player, watch out. With gonzales and Winslow out of the AFC he's almost automatic to be in he probowl as long as he's healthy:icon_banana:
  4. Retired Catholic

    Retired Catholic BoltTalker

    Aug 3, 2006
    Gates, Malcom, VJ and Naanee give us weapons who have physical advantages over every DB in the league and give us good physical matches at point of contact even with linebackers. Chambers gives us what could be the premier slot in the league and if the devoutly hoped for blooming of Davis happens, Rivers could break some records. So could LT, since the defenses will be drive to distraction by the receivers. Add Sproles to the mix and teams will be forced to play zone or man up all the time. Eleven guys is not enough to double team these dudes. There will be someone open on every play and LT will have running lanes each and every play. NFL scoring record, anyone? It will be a challenge, but maybe they could break it in the six games we play in the division.
  5. Buck Melanoma

    Buck Melanoma Guest

    Gates is going to have a monster year. Poor opposing DBs. :icon_twisted:

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