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Sun., Jul. 19, 2015 7:30 AM PDT
Gates Opens Training Camp With Heavy Heart
No one has ever doubted Antonio Gates’ courage.
The veteran tight end has battled for 12 years on the gridiron, endearing himself to both teammates and fans with a strong work ethic and passion for the game. But as courageous as he is on the field, he’s always remained a stalwart in the community off of it, evidenced by his annual holiday season shopping event for less fortunate children.
This offseason was perhaps the toughest Gates has ever faced. Last night, after a prolonged illness, his younger sister passed away at the age of 22.
Understandably Gates was away from Chargers Park for the vast majority of the voluntary offseason program in order to spend time with his family. The Chargers, aware of his situation, excused him from mandatory minicamp.
“I think anybody in any situation, you don’t have to be a football player, no one is just immune to the trials and tribulations in life,” he said. “I think when it happens it’s just something that you have to deal with. Life goes on for the most part. But I think at that time dealing with it, being with my family was the right thing to do….I was here the first day (of the offseason program) and I got the call. It was a spur of the moment decision. I felt I probably would regret not being with my family at the time if I wasn’t there. So like I said it’s just one of those things you just try to make the right decision, and I think at the time it was the correct decision to be there with my family.”
As tough a time this is for Gates, he is grateful for the support system he has in the Chargers. From his teammates to his coaches, they’ve all been there to support him in every way possible.
“I think this team itself, this organization, was phenomenal for what they did,” he said. “You have to deal with it on your own terms and handle it the best way you can. I must tell you, it’s something in my whole career and 34 years, I’ve never done something as tough as this….For the most part (being here) puts me at ease with all the things I had to deal with from a family standpoint and personal standpoint. This is where I’m comfortable at. Competing and doing the things I’m accustomed to doing (which is) playing football. It takes a lot off your mind personally. I think with the help of the organization with guys reaching out to me, there is no better organization in my mind when it comes to supporting you and supporting the things that you go through in life.”