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Chargers’ Philip Rivers gets nostalgic, describes missing Antonio Gates

Antonio Gates, Philip Rivers

The Los Angeles Chargers will be embarking on a new season without tight end Antonio Gates for the first time in the past 17 seasons. For Philip Rivers, it’s going to be an unfamiliar sight to not see Gates’ locker next to his during the regular season.

Via Gilbert Manzano in The Orange County Register:

“That’s probably more weird for me, personally, in that sense just because (we’ve been teammates) for so long,” Rivers said about Gates. “His locker was right there for so long. I’ve checked in with him a few times, too. I think he’s doing well. I’m sure it’s weird for him as well after so many years.

When Rivers came into the NFL in 2004, the gunslinging quarterback had an athletic tight end from Kent State to throw the ball to. In just their first season together, Rivers connected with Gates for 81 receptions, 964 yards, and a career-high 13 touchdowns.

From that moment on, Rivers and Gates built a relationship that would extend to off of the football field. As for on the field, the two ultra-competitive players spent 15 seasons together, but this year will be slightly different.

Earlier this offseason, the Chargers informed Gates that he wouldn’t be returning to the team for his 17th season. Currently, Gates still remains in free agency and has exclaimed his intentions to still play football.

To replace the longtime tight end, Los Angeles is expecting Hunter Henry to step into a more prominent role in the offense this season. Henry missed the entire 2018 season with a torn ACL but is ready to become Rivers’ new favorite target at tight end.