Philip Rivers is joining the Indianapolis Colts in 2020 on a one-year, $25 million deal, and Antonio Gates understands why his former quarterback chose to head to Lucas Oil Stadium. It wasn't so long ago Gates found himself on the outs with the Los Angeles Chargers -- looking for another club to possibly suit up for before ultimately deciding to retire from the NFL in January. The future Hall of Fame tight end took calls from several teams in 2019 and the Colts were one of them, positioning themselves as his top preferred destination if he did decide to give football one more go.
Like Rivers, Gates has history with head coach Frank Reich, offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni and tight ends coach Jason Michael, with each of them having spent time in the Chargers organization during the Rivers-Gates regime. So when the three tried to coax him into a move to Indianapolis, Gates says it was hard to pass up, and that's why he can empathize with Rivers' decision not to.
"I was in the same boat Philip is in now," Gates said, via the Indianapolis Star. "You understand the people you're going to work with. They don't have to worry about me as a human being. They know me, and they know, 'OK, this is his ritual and how he gets prepared and gets ready.'
"Sometimes as a veteran, you need that. That helps you."
"Say I would have gone to New England -- I never played under (Bill) Belichick. He doesn't really understand how Antonio Gates works. He wouldn't know, I need this day off [and] I'll train on this day. So he has a philosophy he's accustomed to, therefore they have no relationship with me.
"All they know is what they see. And that wouldn't have worked. And I really think it's the same for Philip. I'm 98-99% sure that's why he went to Indy."
Gates spent 16 seasons with the Chargers after being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2003, and has never played a single snap for any other organization. His rookie season was the only one of his illustrious NFL career wherein Rivers was not the quarterback, so if anyone understands the psyche of Rivers, it's his former eight-time Pro Bowl tight end.
But does this all hint at a possible reunion in Indy? And especially with Eric Ebron departing in free agency?
"No, no, no," Gates said. "Last year, I was fresh out. I was hesitant about coming back, but I always wanted to keep open the opportunity of winning a championship. I really, truly feel like the Colts have that opportunity now with Philip.
"But for me, I can't be who I was, from a mental standpoint. That's why I retired. What I would have to go through mentally and the things I'd do to prepare, I just don't feel like I can give that effort right now. I wouldn't want to do that to anybody."