CHARGERS Humor helps heal Gates' ailing foot



The tight end was injured in Sunday's 48-10 thumping of the Bills.
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Antonio Gates was feeling well enough on Monday to poke fun at himself and take some good-natured ribbing from Drew Brees.
That was a huge relief for the San Diego Chargers, who found out that Gates' sprained right foot isn't likely to keep him out for a significant amount of time.
"My foot feels a lot better," said the record-setting tight end, who wore a protective boot. "It's just day by day. I'm preparing to play this week."
Gates' injury was one of the few blemishes in Sunday's 48-10 win over the Buffalo Bills, San Diego's third straight victory.
The Chargers (6-4) didn't practice Monday and are off today, so the Kent State graduate won't test his foot until Wednesday. He'll likely be listed as questionable on the injury report for Sunday's game at Washington.
MRI taken
Gates had an MRI on Monday, which showed no significant damage.
Coach Marty Schottenheimer said the team's relief was "considerable."
"You don't want to see any player sustain any kind of injury. In his case, he's a big part of what we're doing overall as a football team. But we have the good fortune of the football gods smiling on all of us," Schottenheimer said.
Gates, who causes headaches for defensive coordinators, was hurt at the end of a 21-yard reception midway through the third quarter when he was tripped up by Angelo Crowell and then had safety Lawyer Milloy land on him.
"Maybe if I was fast enough I'd get away from him," the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Gates said. "That's my 5.0, 5.4 40 speed."
Gates said he considered going back into the game "because I knew third down was coming up," but the training staff shut him down. The Chargers were ahead 35-10, and Gates had caught five passes for 77 yards, including one of Brees' four TD passes.
Last year
During his breakout season of 2004, Gates caught 30 passes on third down, for 358 yards and six touchdowns.
Gates set an NFL record for tight ends with 13 touchdown catches last year.
He leads the Chargers this year with 56 catches for 784 yards and seven TDs.
Brees completed his first nine passes and 17 of his first 18. The only incompletion in the span was when Gates dropped Brees' 10th pass.
Last year, Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb completed his first 14 passes against Green Bay, which helped him set an NFL record by completing 24 consecutive passes over two games.
"Yeah, that was messed up," Brees said in mock disgust as Gates replaced him at the podium in the Chargers' media trailer. "I don't know what he has against me.
"That's all right. He made some nice grabs for me," Brees said. "Can't complain. What is it, maybe his second drop of the season? I'll let it slide. Just this time."
On Sunday, LaDainian Tomlinson mentioned how the Chargers used to tease Gates, a former college hoops star at Kent, about basketball players not being as tough as football players.
Now Gates has his first real football injury.
"When I'm in a game, something might be hurting, like a finger, and this sounds so feminine to come to a trainer and be like, 'You know, my fingernail hurts,' " Gates said with a laugh. "I keep that stuff to myself. I know the first day I do that, they'll go, 'Here he goes with that basketball stuff.'
"So most of the little bitty minor injuries I just keep to myself. The foot, it's tougher than that. It was extremely hurtful at the time. That's one of those injuries -- football, basketball, hockey, boxing -- that's going to hurt. So I get a little bit of credit."

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