Chargers TE Gates encouraged about injured foot after bye

SAN DIEGO -- Chargers tight end Antonio Gates returned to practice in a limited role Monday in hopes of playing this weekend against the New York Jets.

Gates missed San Diego's past three games following a flare-up in his lengthy bout with plantar fasciitis in his right foot.

Gates tore scar tissue near the injury during an Sept. 18 injury against the New England Patriots. He hopes prolonged rest will alleviate the pain that hinders his effectiveness.

Monday was the first step in Gates' return. He hopes to practice the rest of the week but remains cautious about his playing status for Sunday's road game.

"We're making progress, but 'One day at a time' has been our motto since this thing started," Gates said. "But it's encouraging that we're taking some steps in the right direction. The tough part is that I can go out and feel good, but the scar tissue is always in jeopardy of popping. There's always a danger of a minor setback. There's no cure that can fix the problem, especially with the force I use to run around and make plays. You just hope that you don't tear something and have a setback."

Gates said he didn't truly test the injury. That will come later in the week, when he decides whether or not to make a run at playing. His first practice in almost a month was itself a huge hurdle, one that gives him confidence.

"Mentally, today was huge for me because I was able to go out and practice," Gates said. "I have to overcome the mental part of this thing, because it's certainly taken a toll on me. I do think that I'm growing, but I still have to reach a point where I believe in my foot and I have trust in my physical ability."

Also Monday, running backs Ryan Mathews (calf) and Mike Tolbert (concussion-like symptoms) practiced as the Chargers (4-1) returned from their bye weekend. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson (hamstring) didn't practice but is expected to later in the week.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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