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Gates worried foot issue will keep him sidelined against Broncos

SAN DIEGO -- While wide receivers Legedu Naanee and Malcom Floyd are optimistic they'll be able to play when the San Diego Chargers host the Denver Broncos next Monday night, star tight end Antonio Gates isn't so sure if he'll be back.

The Chargers returned from their bye week on Monday feeling better about their chances after Denver beat Kansas City 49-29 to tighten up the weak AFC West. Kansas City and Oakland are tied for the lead at 5-4, followed by four-time defending champion San Diego (4-5) and Denver (3-6).

Gates missed San Diego's 29-23 win at Houston on Nov. 7 with a painful plantar fascia injury in his right foot. He said he'll do all he can to play against Denver but isn't sure at this point. Earlier this season, he was hobbled by toe and ankle injuries.

Gates isn't even sure when he'll return to practice. He and rookie running back Ryan Mathews (ankle) were among the six Chargers who didn't practice Monday. San Diego won't begin preparing for the Broncos until Thursday.

"It's a tear. It's not a tough-man, grind-it-out thing. I tore it," Gates said. "It's got to heal. That's a big part of me running and cutting."

Gates was able to play against New England and Tennessee despite limited or no practice time. He hurt his plantar fascia against Tennessee on Oct. 31, when his 48-yard touchdown catch late in the third quarter put the Chargers ahead in a game they'd win 33-25.

Gates didn't practice at all before the game at Houston and was inactive.

"For what I do, my feet and my legs are my two big assets," said Gates, who has 40 catches for 663 yards and nine touchdowns. "I'd prefer not to hurt the team. That's the decision I'm going to have to make and the coaches are going to have to decide. Am I actually beneficial at this percentage? I don't know. Who's to say?

"I know I did all I could do to get out there against the Patriots, all I could do to get out there against Tennessee, all I could do to get out there against Houston. I just couldn't do it. And I'm going to do all I can do to get out there against Denver. Whether I can do it or not, I'm always trying to play. But it's painful."

Gates said he's been doing what he can the last week and a half to stay in shape.

"It might be baby steps, but it's going in the right direction," he said.

Naanee, meanwhile, has missed four games and Floyd three, both with hamstring injuries.

"I'll be good. I anticipate playing," Naanee said Monday.

"I'll be OK, as long as I don't have any setbacks," Floyd said. "I'm on the right path. I think they'll ease me back in."

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Floyd has 24 catches for 513 yards and three TDs while Naanee has 11 catches for 181 yards and one score.

The Chargers will be without Vincent Jackson for the Denver game as he finishes his three-game suspension on the roster exempt list. He was placed there by general manager A.J. Smith in a hardball attempt to end the wide receiver's holdout.

Also Monday, the Chargers signed safety Pat Watkins as they continue to try to shore up their shaky special teams. Watkins played with the Dallas Cowboys from 2006-09. He played in 13 games last season and finished with 18 special teams tackles and 22 on defense. He was released by the Cowboys just before this season.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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