Record-setting tight end Antonio Gates practiced with the Los Angeles Chargers for the first time in 2018 Wednesday, three days after the team announced that the 38-year-old had signed a one-year contract to return to the team he has played with since 2003.
Team officials told Gates in April they would not re-sign him after he was replaced by Hunter Henry as the starter for the second game of the 2017 season and Virgil Green was signed as a free agent. Gates again became part of the Chargers plans after Henry sustained a torn ACL during organized team activities on May 22 that is expected to sideline him for the season.
“What happens is you have big differences and it’s OK to disagree for the most part,” Gates said. “I think, at one point, we disagreed on certain things and I think what we agreed on is that we had an opportunity this year to be a part of this family.
“This will always be family to me. So, it’s like forgiving a family member and then moving forward. I think our goal is to go out and try to win a Super Bowl and that’s what I wanted to be a part of. So that’s what we agreed on and I came to the same conclusion and so here I am today.”
Coach Anthony Lynn said he would watch Gates “closely this week.”
“I want to know where he is conditioning-wise,” Lynn told reporters before practice Wednesday at the Hoag Performance Center in Costa Mesa. “We know that he can help us. That’s why we brought him back. I don’t know how much yet, but we’ll see.”
Quarterback Philip Rivers said “it’s good to have him back.”
“It’s good to see him again,” said Rivers, who has thrown 87 touchdown passes to Gates, the second-most touchdown passes thrown by a quarterback to a receiver in NFL history behind the 112 thrown by Peyton Manning to Marvin Harrison. Gates has caught 114 touchdown passes, the most by a tight end in NFL history.
“It’s funny (for) a guy like that (who’s) been here that long, it’s like he’s never left. It’s like he’s been here all season and all training camp. It will be good to have him out there today in practice and good to have him back in the building.”
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