Antonio Gates has a simple explanation why he was ranked just 73rd on NFL Network's "Top 100 Players of 2013" countdown. The people who decide such things don't know what they're talking about.
"Apparently they don't watch football," the longtime San Diego Chargers tight end said Thursday on the "Top 100" aftershow. "I understand everybody's opinion. Some people are stats guy, some people are into who catches the touchdowns and passes, who has 100-something catches. A lot of people are not really interested in what the game plan is about."
"It's funny to me because it's a joke in a sense, it's kind of funny."
Also funny: The voters who decide the "Top 100" are fellow NFL players. So they watch football and play it.
In truth, putting the 2013 version of Gates on this list at all seems awfully generous. As NFL.com's Dave Dameshek pointed out during the aftershow, Gates' inclusion feels less like a deserving honor and more like a lifetime achievement award.
After all, we haven't seen Gates in peak form for years. The foot issues have robbed him of the explosion that made him the prototype for today's hyper-athletic tight ends.
Top 100 Players of 2013
"It's always frustrating to see you getting placed so low," Gates said. "At the same time, it gives me a little chip on my shoulder to come back next year to prove I'm one of the better tight ends in this league."
Gates still can play. His savvy at the position allows him to get open even if he doesn't possess the speed and quickness he once did. At the very least, his seven touchdown catches prove he remains a capable red-zone threat.
But the days of Gates as a star are over.