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Gates not taking anything for granted

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by Blue Bolt, Jul 28, 2012.

  1. Blue Bolt

    Blue Bolt Persona Non Grata

    Oct 28, 2009
    CHARGERS: Gates feels he still has something to prove

    SAN DIEGO ---- Media gathered around Antonio Gates on the first day of full-squad training camp, waiting for that trademark smile.

    There was, after all, plenty to be happy about. Gates came to camp fully healthy for the first time in two years. He was lighter in frame and on his feet, seemingly poised to make his 10th season one of his best.

    The pearly whites, however, never showed.

    He talked about ridding the roster of prima donnas. He talked with optimism about this year's renovated roster, focusing on the heightened level of accountability for player in camp. Everyone, he said, must earn the right to be a San Diego Charger.

    It's the mentality of an undrafted free agent, one he's never truly let go of. Gates entered this league in 2003 unheralded and inexperienced, and doesn't believe eight straight Pro Bowl selections, five All-Pro selections and statistical achievements aplenty give him the right to take anything for granted.

    "What I've done in the past has no relevance to this upcoming season," Gates said in an extended interview Friday afternoon. "I still look at it like I'm unproven for the 2012 season, and that's a mentality derived from being an undrafted free agent.

    "There were no favors given in 2003. You have to go above and beyond to even get an opportunity. I had to work for everything I got and I had to make the most of every moment. It established a solid understanding of what it takes to be successful in this league, so I'm glad I climbed through the ranks the way I did. Nothing is given. Everything is earned."

    Gates would've rather played basketball. Anyone that's followed his career knows that. The Kent State star didn't even play college football, and would've rather made a beeline for the NBA. And while he heard good things about his basketball prowess with little guarantee, he heard potential greatness might be in his football-playing future.

    This wasn't the time to follow his heart. There was his daughter to think about, and a future to plan. In the end, logic won out.

    "I had to listen to my brain and ignore my heart," Gates said. "I had a daughter, and I made a decision like a man. At the time, it was the best opportunity to support those I cared about and I knew it. In basketball, people thought I was good but I felt like I had to keep proving myself. In football, people kept saying my potential was high and my gifts were phenomenal.

    You start weighing the pros and cons and it becomes pretty clear that football gave me the best chance to succeed. I had an opportunity given, and I took it."

    Gates earned his keep in the 2003 camp and proved to be a star in 2004, the season that truly launched his career. There have been plenty of ups and downs since then. There were strong team efforts in 2006, 2007 and 2009, and a contract holdout in 2005, severe injury concerns in 2008 and each of the past two seasons. Records have been broken. So have hearts, during a stretch of unsatisfactory results.

    "When you look back and the ups and downs, the bumps and the bruises, you find the 32-year-old tight end you have today," Gates said. "But I've learned from each experience and grown as an individual and part of a team. I play the game mentally and physically, and I feel like I'm bringing it all together."

    Those closest to him can see greater perspective in Gates, especially after battling severe plantar fasciitis over the past 18 months. While it stole some of his effectiveness, it forced him to be a smarter football player. It also taught him to appreciate his health and that opportunities are fleeting.

    Gates seems to be having fun. He certainly was on Saturday afternoon, when he made a pair of circus catches during 11-on-11 red-zone drills in full pads. He showed the same agility and athleticism of years ago, before injuries started weighing him down physcially and mentally, when he was never able to practice in the faint hope he was able to play.

    Quarterback Philip Rivers, Gates' best friend on the team and his locker room neighbor, said that being healthy and happy hasn't diminished his focus. In fact, it may have increased his drive to be great and hastened his quest for an elusive Super Bowl ring.

    "This is as fresh and healthy and I think he's been in two years," Rivers said. "Age is nothing but a number. He's healthy, fast and practices as hard as anyone. He goes all out and never gets bored with the boring stuff. Going on 10 years, he's done a ton of these practices and ran the same route hundreds of times. He's always looking for ways to fine-tune things and get better and more complete. He has a ton of individual accolades, but it's clear he wants to win for this team. He wants to go all the way. That's clear in everything he does."

    Gates is clearly not satisfied with his career, his accomplishments or his legacy so far. The undrafted free agent of a decade ago has resurfaced, and he feels he must prove himself all over again.

    "There's no such thing as the highest level," Gates said. "There's always a new standard to be set or personal records to be broken. Right now, I want to win football games by setting a standard for excellence and consistency.

    "I understand reality, and I know you're opportunities to do something special are finite. While the future remains uncertain, you can't take anything for granted. We have a chance this year. We can't let it slip away."
  2. Buck Melanoma

    Buck Melanoma Guest

    Can he play LOT too? :cautious:

    HEXEDBOLT Don't like it, lump it!!!

    Jul 11, 2006
    He talked about ridding the roster of prima donnas. He talked with optimism about this year's renovated roster, focusing on the heightened level of accountability for player in camp. Everyone, he said, must earn the right to be a San Diego Charger.

    A cold winters day in New England may now finally be put to rest.
    • Informative Informative x 1

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