San Diego Chargers: Antonio Gates suspension tarnishes legacy


After arriving in Cleveland, Ohio, a seven-minute trip down US Route 422 East, 54.8-mile drive on I-77 South to exit 107A at Ohio Route 687 East/Fulton Road and a slight right onto George Halas Dr NW are required to reach the National Football League’s famed enshrinement center known as the Pro Football Hall of Fame at 2121 George Halas Drive Northwest, Canton, OH 44708.

The directions to the Pro Football Hall of Fame for San Diego Chargers TE Antonio Gates were as simple as that until news surfaced yesterday that Bolts tight end has been suspended the first four games of the 2015 NFL season by the league for violating its substance abuse policy during last year’s campaign.

In a statement obtained by editor Ricky Henne, “Antonio Gates of the San Diego Chargers has been suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2015 regular season for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances. Gates will be eligible to return to the Chargers’ active roster on Monday, October 5 following the team’s October 4 game against the Cleveland Browns. Gates is eligible to participate in all offseason and preseason practices and games.”

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If you haven’t already familiarized yourself with Gates’ career up to this point, it is quite an unbelievable story.

Originally a basketball star at Kent State, the Chargers gave the raw prospect a shot when they signed him on May 2, 2003. Surprisingly Gates took well to football and ended up making the Chargers roster and excelling in his rookie season.

Despite 12 years in the NFL, Gates has only caught less than seven touchdowns only twice in his entire career (two touchdowns in his rookie season and four touchdowns in 2013). That type of touchdown production is only seen in truly great offensive players.

Sep 8, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates reacts on the bench in the closing seconds of the game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Chargers 18-17. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Overall, Gates has caught 788 passes for 10,014 yards and 99 touchdowns in his 12-year NFL campaign. While he’s had only two 1,000-yard seasons, he caught for over 821 yards seven times. Not to mention, he’s fumbled the ball only six times and went to eight straight Pro Bowls from 2004-2011. His 99 receiving touchdowns rank ninth all-time and ranks 44th on the all-time receiving yards list.

For all of Gates’ career, he has been like my bathroom tub: squeaky clean. For all twelve years of his storied and probably Hall-of-Fame career, Antonio Gates has been a role model to all San Diego youths as well as adults. That is, until this past week when he was found guilty of using performance enhancing drugs.

For clarification, I’ll say this. I can forgive Antonio Gates. A great man once said, “in order to be forgiven, we must forgive ourselves.”

Via Gates’ twitter, the tight end said in a statement “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 never taken any substance that was illegal or banned by the NFL. As an NFL veteran and team leader, I should have done my due diligence…I take full responsibility for my actions.

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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.”

Off-the-field Gates helps out with the “Shop with a Charger” event which allows children who have been neglected or abused to have an amazing night filled with Christmas toys galore. Gates also is a big supporter of the Huntington’s Disease Society of America and Promises2Kids, which provides help to foster youth in San Diego.

For a guy who spends much of his offseason time helping other people, I do not believe he intentionally took PEDs; he is too smart for that.

As well, this entire situation raises questions as to Gates’ current contract situation. With the embarrassment of having a PED user on their roster, the Chargers are definitely going to take this situation into consideration when thinking about signing Gates in the 2016 offseason. The problem is that Gates is too valuable to this franchise to let an accidental PED suspension get in the way of the team’s success.

In another statement released via the team’s website, “We are tremendously disappointed for our team and our fans as well as Antonio, but no more disappointed than Antonio is with himself.  Antonio is a member of the Chargers’ family and we will continue to support him 100-percent…While it’s unfortunate to not have him to start the season, we have complete confidence our tight end group will continue to play at a high level.”

The most important thing at this time is that the San Diego Chargers believe in Gates’ apologies.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame writers, however, may not be as forgiving as I am, though. For instance, Gates’ 2014 season, in which he caught an outstanding 12 touchdowns (among tops in his career), could have a huge asterisk next to it. This suspension raises huge questions to Gates’ career numbers and if he potentially could have taken illegal substances earlier in his career to gain a leg up.

In baseball, the greatest of players such as Barry Bonds, Jose Conseco, Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire will probably never see the light of the Hall-of-Fame because they all used performance enhancing drugs.

The difference though: Gates openly admitted to using PEDs (albeit accidentally) and took full responsibility unlike most of the baseball players listed above.

Could Gates be the next not admitted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame because of his PED use?

I don’t believe so, but Hall of- ame writers have been known to change their opinions. At the end of the day, whether accidental or not, Gates still cheated and was caught. Only time will tell the effects that his actions will have on his career and overall legacy.

Next: Is Mike McCoy on the hot seat?

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