Antonio Gates briefly was out of football in the offseason. His absence from the game lasted five months.
The Chargers publicly bid Gates farewell in April, a month before Hunter Henry tore his anterior cruciate ligament. Los Angeles re-signed Gates the week of the season opener.
Despite only 28 receptions for 338 yards and two touchdowns this season, Gates sounds as if he thinks he has more football in his future.
“I try to evaluate myself,” Gates said, via Steve Wyche of NFL Media. “I can still beat a linebacker. I feel like I can still play.
“The hard part is I set the bar at a certain level, but I’ve adjusted to my role, and I just love my teammates. I love this staff. I’ve learned some new dances. I’m just having so much fun.”
Gates, 38, has played 350 snaps, or 37.4 percent of the team’s offensive plays, as Virgil Green has gotten the bulk of the work at the position. Gates played 500 snaps, or 47 percent, last season and made 30 receptions for 316 yards and three touchdowns.
Gates knows the end is near. But in reminding everyone he “hasn’t taken that wear and tear” because he didn’t play college football, Gates has started campaigning for a 17th season.
“I’m on third base, and I’m heading home,” Gates said, “but I’m feeling so good about all this.”