Antonio Gates is hurting, which means the Chargers are hurting

The Chargers offense has kept producing despite the loss of LaDainian Tomlinson(notes). It's continued producing in the absence of Vincent Jackson(notes). It even continued producing this past Sunday, when their top four receivers were all missing.

They cannot withstand the loss of tight end Antonio Gates(notes), though. And that's the position they find themselves facing right now.

Gates has "popped" the plantar fascia in his right foot, whatever that means. He's strolling around practice on a scooter and his presence in the lineup on Sunday against the Texans is, at best, a question mark.

Gates is the straw that stirs the drink in San Diego. He's even better than that -- he's a glittery, bendy straw that not only stirs and makes consumption possible, but he amuses, bewilders and brightens the masses. He is the reason the Chargers can stand to be without their top four wide receivers. Other teams just can't prepare for him. He's always a mismatch, even against two guys. He's a walking third-down conversion.

Here's more on the injury from Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Dr. Phillip Kwong, a foot specialist with the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic, said people find it difficult to walk for two weeks or more after tearing a plantar fascia.

“I think it’s going to be really tough to play with any proficiency this Sunday, unless they do a remarkable job anesthetizing him,” Kwong said.

Well then, as a Chargers fan, I'm all for doing a remarkable job of anesthetizing him. I say we load him up with a medicine chest full of vicodin, a turkey baster full of lidocaine, enough oxycodone to make Rush Limbaugh blush, and then about 27 Red Bulls. Is that remarkable enough, doctor?

If the Chargers had a two-game lead in the division, it might be different, but they don't. They're behind both the Raiders and Chiefs, and while they could sustain the loss of some guys, they can't sustain this. Outside of Philip Rivers(notes), Gates is the guy they can least afford to lose, because he opens up so many things for everyone. They can't afford this, even for a week, given the predicament in which they've put themselves in the AFC West.

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