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Antonio Gates Sets Bar High for Bolts' Tight Ends
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Antonio Gates holds himself to a high standard. That’s what you’d expect out of a future Hall-of-Famer who is one of the greatest tight ends in league history.
But he doesn’t limit that high standard to just himself. Instead, he demands excellence out of the entire tight end group as a whole, holding each member accountable. That’s just another reason why in addition to being a legendary player on the field, he is a respected leader off of it.
“Every single day we set a goal as a unit to go out and be the best in the National Football League,” said Gates. “And it starts from the top from the first guy all the way down to the fifth or sixth guy. We understand that in that room, we hold each other accountable. We take it very seriously and you can see that was something I said to them when we went out was since I’ve been here, we’ve held a standard in this league about playing the best at this position. Just to see some of the guys go out and make the plays that they were making; it just shows what we’re about as a unit.”
Those “guys” Gates talked about were free agent signee John Phillips and second-year pro Ladarius Green. Each contributed in his own way Thursday night, and Gates believes that will be indicative of what’s in store for 2013.
“To me, you bring a guy in like John, you assume he’s taking the position of a blocking tight end,” he said. “But to me, he’s very underrated as a pass catcher. I think something that you will get the chance to see more and more (is) his ability to make plays in the passing game along with understanding schemes in the blocking game. So he’s definitely going to help us. He’s a guy that’s been around. He’s been in Dallas in a phenomenal personnel with Jason (Witten) and he understands what it’s like to help win football games.”
Likewise, Gates believes the future is bright for Green, last year’s fourth-round draft pick.
“He is at an unbelievable pace at how he’s growing and how he’s maturing mentally,” he said. “Obviously he can run and jump. He’s a big target. But just to see the growth over and over, day in and day out, just him putting in the work and preparation. I’m just trying to give him as much knowledge as I possibly can to help him become a better football player. He’s going to definitely be a player in this league and guys will definitely start to notice him.”
Gates enters the 2013 season as the franchise’s all-time leader in touchdown receptions with 83 TDs. He has connected with Philip Rivers on 56 touchdown catches, the most in NFL history between a quarterback-tight end tandem. Gates also holds the team record for receptions (642) and ranks third in receiving yards (8,321). With such an accomplished career, it’s easy to reason that Gates is approaching the upcoming year like any seasoned veteran would.
That’s not the case.
“I don’t know if you can turn back the hands of time, but everything is new and I think that’s the exciting thing about this year for myself and for the rest of the guys,” he said. “I feel somewhat like a rookie again. I’m learning a new playbook, learning a new offense and around new coaches. Since day one Coach has stated that regardless of what you’ve done in the past, it’s about what you can do to help the football team this year. And we’ve taken that approach every single day, every single step just working hard and trying to do the things and show coach this is what we’re about and this is what this organization is about.”
Be sure to watch Gates and the rest of the tight ends during the remaining open training camp dates. Click here for more information