Antonio Gates grateful for every moment after “mini-retirement”

Darin Gantt
ProFootball Talk on NBC Sports

The game itself wasn’t much to hang onto, another Chargers loss full of “self-inflicted” wounds.

But Antonio Gates was full of other emotions, after coming back from what he called his “mini-retirement.

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“To be here, to hear the fans again, was just an unbelievable experience,” Gates said, via Jeff Miller of the Los Angeles Times. “I think, for the most part, you take it for granted. . . .

“Ultimately, when you step away, reality hits you. And [then] you step back into this situation. I think you really understand and respect the opportunity.”

The veteran tight end wasn’t sure he was going to hear those cheers again, after the Chargers made it clear they weren’t interested in bringing him back for a 16th season. Of course, that changed when Hunter Henry was lost for the season to a knee injury, and the 38-year-old was brought back.

He caught three passes Sunday, including one for a two-point conversion, showing no signs that he was incapable of contributing.

“It’s like getting something back that you thought was gone forever,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “It was good to have him out there. . . .

“I honestly think he has more juice right now than he did at the end of last year, which makes sense because he was able to be fresh all preseason and all training camp.”

It took Gates some time to get caught up, and he played just under half the snaps in Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs. But as weeks go by, he’ll doubtless become more comfortable. And he’ll appreciate every minute of it.

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