It wasn't so long ago that Antonio Gates was peerless at the tight-end position in the NFL.
A former college basketball star, Gates was a new breed of tight end when he began to rip up defenses in the mid-aughts. Tall, fast and hyper-athletic, Gates was a matchup nightmare that became a template. Before everyone wanted a Gronk, they wanted a Gates.
Now entering his 10th season with the San Diego Chargers, Gates sees a roster full of potential playmakers at his position.
"I've never been around this kind of group," Gates told U-T San Diego last month. "We all make plays. It's our little motto."
The Chargers will have six tight ends in camp. Gates and 11th-year man Randy McMichael are the senior members. The group also includes Kory Sperry, Dante Rosario and fourth-round draft pick Ladarius Green.
We're more interested to see what the Chargers get from Gates this season. Chronic foot issues have taken a toll on his production, and he faced some ugly in-house criticism last November. If Gates is right about San Diego's depth at tight end, he could facing a challenge in training camp.