Chargers suspend Antonio Gates

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Photo above: quarterback Philip Rivers, #17, with tight end Antonio Gates, #85, during spring training.

The San Diego Chargers just released the list of players it has waived, released and two players suspended: guard Craig Watts and tight end Antonio Gates. There’s a shocker.

The Chargers All Pro tight end, the most dependable receiver for quarterback Philip Rivers, will miss the first four games of the season — 25 percent of the season — for having tested positive for performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). The Chargers said he is still on the team and everyone is looking forward to his return.

Antonio Gates
Antonio Gates

His absence is bound to have an effect. He’s reached 10,000 yards receiving with the Chargers, scoring 12 touchdowns last season. He has set team receiving records that will probably stand for his lifetime. To say he’s the best receiver in Chargers history hardly tells his whole story. Antonio Gates is easily one of the five best tight ends in the history of the NFL. When Gates misses games the Chargers suffer, as fans will remember in 2010-2012, when he missed games due to a foot injury.

In a tweet with an attached statement Gates said, “In my 12 years in the NFL, I have taken tremendous pride in upholding the integrity of the NFL shield and all that it entails I have taken extreme care of my body with a holistic approach and I have never knowingly ingested a substance that was banned by the NFL. In an effort to recover from this past season, I used supplements and holistic medicines, and unfortunately, I have now learned that those substances always present a risk because they may contain banned substances even if the ingredient list doesn’t reflect them. As an NFL veteran and team leader I should have done my due diligence to ensure that what I was taking for recovery was within the NFL guidelines. I understand that I am responsible for what is in my body and I have always believed ignorance is no excuse when it comes to these issues. I take full responsibility for my actions. I’d like to express my sincere apologies to the Chargers, my teammates, coaches, fans and the league who have always supported me and expected and gotten nothing but the highest level of integrity from me.”

Antonio Gates greeting fans and signing autographs at Chargers Fan Fest last month.
Antonio Gates greeting fans and signing autographs at Chargers Fan Fest last month.

The first game Gates will be eligible to play will be a Monday Night game, October 12, at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He is also eligible to take part in any remaining preseason activities.

This puts tight end Ladarius Green in the position of having to step up to replace Gates. Green has proven to be a very athletic player and has shown he could also be a playmaker like Gates.

Regardless of how well Green plays in the first four games, the moment #85 Antonio Gates walks out on to the field at Qualcomm Stadium and is announced to the crowd, the deafening roar will remind everyone just which tight end the fans pay to see.

(Photos by Claudia Gestro)