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Chargers TE Antonio Gates: "It's just a fun place to play"


Q: What are your thoughts on trying to close out the season with something positive?

Gates:"The thing about it is you get a great opportunity to learn the true characters of teammates, this is what everybody is about through all of this. Especially his past month, month and a half, with everything we've had to overcome and go through, it shows a lot about what we stand for and the character of every individual in this locker room. To go out and get a win and close out Qualcomm was obviously a step towards the right direction and just trying to finish out the season strong going into next year, going to next year with something positive and winning football games is obviously… I'm seeing Carolina now play. They kind of had the same situation. They won some games late last year and now they're on a roll and that's how it is in this league."

Q: What was Sunday afternoon like? It seemed like an emotional setting at Qualcomm?

Gates:"Yeah, it was. At certain times I was just trying to hold it together. Just so many memories, so many wars and battles on that football field. Just the whole idea, going back in 2004 when we won the AFC West and we had a 10-year span where we didn't win it, but then '94 was the last time and then all the way to now, not obviously advancing to the postseason, but just all the things, the ups and downs that you've been through collectively and then you know obviously it's a special place for myself. It's the only place I've been for the past 13 years. I've shared so many memories with so many different players and obviously particularly playing that final game at the stadium, it was emotional. I'm glad we responded well and we got to get the victory." 

Q: Now this week, you might be on the other side of it with this potentially being the last game in Oakland. What will that experience be like given that you've just gone through it?

Gates:"I think the respect factor from a point of the ton of battles that we've had over the years over a decade. We obviously want to go there and beat the Oakland Raiders. I'm quite sure they feel the same way about the San Diego Chargers. It's been an unbelievable place to go play a football game. Since I've been a kid, going and playing and watching Oakland play was always something special, and obviously the historical moments and history of their franchise. So I'm quite sure it'll have the same emotional affect for the guys who have been there and been a part of that organization for a while."


Q: Do you enjoy the fans in Oakland? **

Gates:"Yeah, I do, man. It's just a fun place to play. It gets kind of crazy there, but for the most part, it's always been an unbelievable place to go and compete. I appreciate the loyalty of the fans and how in spite of anything Oakland's been through, they've always been there to support us, so I think that's something as a player you can appreciate."

Q: How difficult has it been to go through all you guys have been through this season?

Gates:"It's a learning experience to say the least. We've been through a lot of different situations. This is the first where four or five games removed from the end of the season, we knew we weren't going to the postseason, so obviously it was a learning experience for myself, and I think it was a great teaching year. I think sometimes things you learn the most are things you experience and the things you gravitate towards the most are not always from a positive standpoint. We've shown in it a lot these past two months. There's been a lot of positive reinforcement about doing the detailed things in the football game and continuing to grind, continuing to work hard and most important out of all of that, just continuing to believe in one another. This last game, we were able to see some guys come together and play. Despite all the things we've been through, we still came out and played as if we believed we were going to win the next one. I think that's what symbolizes a good team."

Q: Yesterday, Charles Woodson announced he's going to retire after this season. What has it been like going against Charles all these years?

Gates:"It's been phenomenal, man. Obviously, he's playing at a high level at the position, at the safety position and obviously at corner. I remember when he was a corner. He models what it means to be an Oakland Raider. He epitomizes what it means to be a professional in this league and I can't say enough about obviously the respect we have for him going against him. Even when he was with Green Bay and came to Qualcomm, we had a chance to compete. He's one of those guys that always brings the best out of you and I will always remember that when he's retired. He's just a phenomenal football player."


An exclusive look at the AFC West rivalry that is the Oakland Raiders vs. San Diego Chargers through the decades.

Q: Was there an extra passion that you could sense from the fans at potentially the last game at Qualcomm? Was there extra emotion running through the team? **

Gates:"I really didn't plan on it being that emotional. I didn't really know it would have an effect on me as much, but it did, man. You could sense the energy from the fans' perspective and from the team perspective. I think some of the speeches that coach was saying prior to the game, the day before the game, about the foundation that was built here and what we stand for to wear that Chargers gold on our helmets, and I can remember vividly about the days when people would come here and they had to play against us in that stadium and they knew they had a game on their hands, to all the way to now to being with the younger guys and trying to get them to understand what it means to be a San Diego Charger. To the fans, who have always embraced myself and this team over the last 12, 13 years, to see them emotional and then obviously a good friend of mine, Malcom Floyd saying he's retiring after this year, there were just a lot of emotions running through collectively for me. To be honest with you, I couldn't keep it together. I was kind of shocked. Every time somebody said something, my eyes would get watery, just because when you put so much into it and you put so much hard work into going out and trying to play well every single week and then seeing that all kind of go before your eyes in that stadium, it was just an emotional feeling collectively."

Q: Those emotional moments occurred in the meetings the day before?

Gates:"Yeah. Coach had said, and obviously the head coach speaks and then offensive coordinator said some very, very generous things about particularly me, Philip, and Malcom, Weddle [inaudible] and when they were at other teams and how they would feel when they would come here. And obviously you just laid the foundation about what it meant to be a Charger and we continue to do that with these younger guys and continue to try to pave that way for what it means to wear that Charger gold in your helmet and what we stand for. So many generous things were said. There are numbers of things that were sad, but at the end of the day, when you have that sacrifice collectively that we've had together and you think about all the countless hours and countless practices and countless reps that we've had together, I think that's where the emotions kind of come in, because you feel like it's all going down at this point in this time and this is the last game at Qualcomm."

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