/Antonio Gates wants to return to Chargers for 2019

Antonio Gates wants to return to Chargers for 2019

Antonio Gates caught just his second career postseason touchdown in the waning moments of Sunday’s blowout loss to the New England Patriots. The Los Angeles Chargers‘ tight end doesn’t want that moment to be the end of his career.

“I just don’t see myself walking away with this taste,” Gates said after his team’s 41-28 loss, via ESPN’s Eric D. Williams. “And plus this team. I think when you add Hunter [Henry] back, and hopefully we get Jason Verrett back — shoot, the sky’s the limit. And I want to be a part of it.

“But that has to be a collective decision. I can’t just want to come back. So we’ll see how it goes.

Last offseason, the Chargers didn’t seem inclined to bring back the 38-year-old tight end. Then Hunter Henry went down with an ACL tear in May, paving the way for Gates’ return.

The veteran tight end wants to make sure the team knows his desire to play a 17th season early this time around, in hopes Chargers brass saves a spot.

“Maybe they felt I was on the brink of whether or not I want to be here or not, and they had to make choices early on,” Gates said. “I want to be sure to remind them that I want to come back. I want to be part of something special, and I think we have that here. But that’s out of my control in the sense where I can only do what I can do. And we’ll see out it goes.”

Gates is slow as molasses at this stage of his career, but can still get open, particularly on key third downs. On the season Gates caught 28 passes for 333 yards and two touchdowns. Philip Rivers would often go back to old-reliable in key spots on big third-and-short plays.

On Sunday, Gates compiled five receptions on eight targets for 41 yards and a touchdown. The veteran said defenses believe he still has enough juice left in the tank by how they bracket coverage him in big spots.

“Of course I think I can still play. Do they think I can still play? That’s just something — I know [the Patriots] think I can still play because they keep doubling me,” Gates said. “A lot of teams think I can still play because they find a way to still double me on third down. That just remains to be seen.

“I’ll have to sit down with the head coach and the people that make these decisions and express how motivated I am to come back even better, as a player and as a teammate, and hopefully they bring me back.”

With Hunter Henry returning to full form, the question will be whether the Chargers believe Gates’ veteran presence will provide enough worth to take up a roster spot. Otherwise, the team could move on without their future Hall of Fame TE, as they appeared set to do in 2018 before Henry’s injury.

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