Antonio Gates ‘leaning’ towards playing in 2016

By Jesse Reed
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Antonio Gates wants to end his career on a high note, and as such he’s “leaning” towards a return to the San Diego Chargers in 2016.

After enduring another heart-breaking loss on Sunday to the Kansas City Chiefs, the future Hall of Famer made comments that should raise the spirits of Chargers fans who have endured one of the worst seasons in franchise history.

“I don’t want to go out this kind of way,” Gates said Sunday night, via Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune. “I don’t want to go out as a loser. Winning is the way, ideally, you want to go out. … I want to make one more run at it, and then if it doesn’t work, be like, ‘OK.’ That’s just my feeling right now.”

After missing the first four games of the season due to a suspension, the 35-year old tight end has been one of the most consistent offensive weapons for quarterback Philip Rivers. He’s caught 45 passes for 497 yards and four touchdowns, showing he clearly still has some gas left in the tank.

What’s even more remarkable about his consistent production is that opposing teams are game-planning to stop him. San Diego’s receiving corps has been decimated by injuries this season, making Gates Rivers’ best option most of the time.

So what could be contributing factors that will help Gates make the final decision to either hang it up or come back?

He wants to make sure the organization is going everything it can to improve the overall product, for one.

“I’ll spend some time,” he said, “to see where I’m at, what’s being done, what changes there are, what our goals are.”

Gates does value having played for the same team throughout his career, so if he does come back in 2016 he hopes it will be with the Chargers.

“Being with one team my entire career is something I think about, too,” Gates said. “So that’s a (factor). We’ll see about that.”

But winning is key.

Gates has never been close to winning a championship. And being one of the game’s all-time greats he wants to go out on a winning team. He’s only eight touchdowns behind Tony Gonzalez for the all-time lead for NFL tight ends, with 103 at this point, so wherever he lands he’s going to want to play with an elite passer.

Rivers still fits that description, despite a terrible recent run in which he’s been held scoreless in three of the last four games. However, San Diego has a lot of work to do in order to shore up the offensive line so the quarterback has time to make the big plays down the field.

It’s going to be interesting to see what the legendary tight end decides to do after the season ends. For now, it’s enough to know he’s strongly considering another season in the NFL, which would be a win for everyone who loves football.