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Antonio Gates 'definitely leaning toward coming back'

Antonio Gates isn't ready to walk away from the game -- not yet.

About to wrap up his 14th NFL campaign, the veteran tight end made it clear Wednesday that he's planning to be around next season.

"This is not the way I expected to be done," Gates said, per Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune. "I'm definitely leaning toward coming back."

At 36, Gates remains a playmaking asset for the Chargers, even with the emergence of rookie tight end Hunter Henry. Gates currently ranks third on the team in targets (85), catches (48) and receiving touchdowns (6) as the trustworthy target of quarterback Philip Rivers.

If his numbers are down off previous peak campaigns, Gates has talked for years about playing younger than his age. As one of the few NFL players who have thrived despite never playing college football, Gates, in theory, has taken less of a beating than other 30-somethings at his position.

Signed through next season, Gates has done more than enough to compel the Chargers to keep him around. Besides, with 110 career touchdowns, he's just two away from taking down Tony Gonzalez's record for receiving touchdowns by a tight end (111).

Gates might be back to set history in 2017.

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