|Antonio Gates knows the Chargers are up against it. (Getty Images)|
The Chargers are fighting for their lives to make the playoffs right now and their toughest test comes Sunday against Baltimore in San Diego. For that game -- and the rest of the season -- the Chargers are renaming their home field "Snapdragon Stadium."
In advance of the first ever game in Snapdragon Stadium on Sundya night, we talked to all-world Chargers tight end Antonio Gates about his health, whether the Bolts can make the playoffs, how much Norv Turner's job security is one the line, the upcoming Ravens game, why Philip Rivers struggled so much during the early part of the season, whether Tim Tebow's getting too much media attention and much more:
Will Brinson: Alright, so the Chargers are changing the name to Snapdragon Stadium, can you talk about the what's going on with that and the process involved?
Antonio Gates: I'm actually looking forward to it, playing in Snapdragon Stadium for the first-ever time Sunday. For people who don't know know, Snapdragon is the heart of your smartphone and it does so many different things. It allows you to watch HD video, play video games, it allows you to search the web without draining your battery, so it's definitely going to be a fun experience, it's definitely going to be an amazing experience and I'm just looking forward to it this Sunday.
WB: Cool deal - big crowd, blackout's lifted and you've got just five catches to break Charlie Joiner's franchise record for receptions. Is that something you're eying for Sunday night?
AG: I'm not trying to go out of my way to get it. It's not like Sunday night's game is about me getting five catches. But it would definitely be an honor to be able to break the record at home, if that's in the midst of the game, if you will, because it's whatever helps us win the game. We still have an opportunity to go to the playoffs if things fall our way.
WB: Yeah, you guys have been hot. You've got 36 catches, 400 yards and five touchdowns since November and you haven't been on an injury report since December 3 that I can see. Just how healthy are you with the plantar fascitis right now?
AG: It's definitely getting better -- it's allowing me to do more physically which ultimately gives me a better chance which helps our football team win the game. I think you see glimpses of that at times, me making catches, me having pretty good games -- last week I had a pretty good game -- so you see glimpses of it, but it's still an ongoing process.
WB: Yeah, it's a nasty injury. Look, there was a Yahoo Sports article and there was someone who said you'd looked like you'd gotten older … it was kind of disparaging from an unnamed source I'd say. Did you see that and did that motivate you at all?
AG: Nah, it had nothing to do with my motivation at all. To me, outsiders never had any impact on what I do day to day. I've always said that I control my own destiny, and part of that was me just getting back to being healthy. Like I said, there wasn't anything motivating me from the outside of me trying to put this team in the best position to win and go after a championship.
WB: Right on. Philip Rivers was an enigma early in the season and no one could really figure out what was going on, but he seems to have really hit his rhythm in December. Do you guys have any clue why he was struggling early on?
AG: Well, one thing about this league is that the perception is that the quarterback is struggling. It's not always the case. Things could be broken down in other areas but somehow the quarterback takes all the responsibility. And I think that's what was the case when I hear people say things about Philip or about guys on this team.
There's just so much with the one person you see on a consistent basis. Guys will see Philip throwing the ball and if it's an interception, you say "Wow he keeps throwing interceptions," but what people fail to realize is that protection schemes or the wrong route probably played just as big a role in that interception as him actually throwing it.
WB: Yeah, that makes sense. The hidden injury theory's gotten blown out the last couple of weeks -- Ryan Mathew's been on fire the last few weeks. Do you think he's capable of stepping up and becoming a legit feature back?
AG: He definitely has the ability and the potential to be one of the elite backs in the NFL. You can see the maturity level, you can see the growth and that's always a positive thing for a young player who comes in the league.
WB: A lot has been made, at least in reports, that Norv Turner's job is on the line. Is that something you guys worry about when focusing on the next game?
AG: Yeah, a lot of people like to point that out and use the coach as a tool like that. But if his job's on the line that means the rest of the players jobs are on the line. So I think collectively we understand that this is a performance-driven business and with all due respect, we want to the do the right things to enhance our performance, or else you find the best man for the job. I think that's just the nature of this business.
WB: So you guys recognize that he could be out at the end of the year then?
AG: It's just the reality for anyone playing in this league or coaching in this league. To me we're trying to do what we can control, which is win the next game. I think you come in, you prepare, you go about everything first class and then at the end of the season you have to wait and see what happens. There are things that just aren't in your control. And what you can control is how you prepare and how you continue to be a first-class citizen in how you go about your way. And that's definitely the case with this organization and this coaching staff. They continue to come in and work as hard as they can and put us in the best position to win.
WB: Alright, talk about this game on Sunday -- the Ravens defense is obviously stout and typically limits tight ends pretty well. You got anything you guys are planning on gameplanning to throw the Ravens off their game?
AG: Well we know it's a tough challenge. We know they're a very physical defense and a very good football team. In my opinion, they're probably one of the best football teams in the league right now, just because they can do so many different things. They can beat you so many different ways -- they can throw the ball down the field, they can run the ball, they can stop the run, they can cover. They're great in special teams, they're well-coached, so it's gonna be a tough challenge on Sunday night.
WB: OK, I'll get you out on this -- I gotta ask you about this guy first and I feel bad about asking you, but Joe Flacco was complaining about him and all we hear these days is "Tebow" and you guys play him in the division, so are you guys sick of hearing "Tebow, Tebow, Tebow" all the time yet? Are you tired of it yet?
AG: You know, I feel for the other 10 guys that's on the field with him. Really, I do, because the perception is it's about Tim Tebow. And I think the world of him, I think he's a very good football player, but I can honestly say that it's more than Tim Tebow on that team. That's the reason they're winning those football games.
At some point, the credit does go to the quarterback, but that defense is phenomenal, that run game is phenomenal and the offensive line is protecting him to the point where he's not getting touched either. There's so many factors in the game, and I have no problems with them talking about it, but it is what is and I understand he's not doing it all by himself.
WB: Haha, that's a wise answer, my friend. Hey, thanks again for talking to us.
AG: No problem man, take it easy.
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