The first practice of Chargers training camp is in the books, but it was what happened after practice that received a great deal of attention.
To a crowd of media, tight end Antonio Gates spoke publicly for the first time since receiving his four-game suspension for violating the league policy on performance-enhancing substances.
Shaking his head, Gates said he never saw the suspension coming and maintained that he “isn’t sure” how the substance – which he said “increases testosterone" – got in his body.
“I’m not really sure quite how it got in my system particularly, but it was in there,” he said. “I’ve been doing the same things over and over in terms of, after the season, taking care of my body. I’m very intuitive of what my body needs.
“I’ve taken multiple tests since then and it didn’t show up,” he continued. “I’ve taken multiple tests before and it didn’t show up. So out of a hundred-thousand tests I’ve taken in the NFL, one test proved to be positive. “
Gates, who said he’s taken a naturopathic approach to taking care of his body in the offseason for years now, used the example of going to the store to get something to help his body with recovery or inflammation and simply not checking the multitude of ingredients on the back of the box.
“This league has totally changed from when I first got here,” he said. “The things you can take, the things you can’t take … It’s a learning experience. It’s something you have to learn from.”
When he first learned of the suspension, Gates thought it was a joke.
“I was shocked,” he said. “I knew coming into minicamp that I was dealing with it, but the four-game suspension was never in my mind. I never really thought I’d be suspended for four games. I thought it was an issue, I was going to address it, I was going to show [the NFL] that this is what I’ve been taking, this is the naturopathic way I’ve been doing it, but that never happened.
“Unfortunately, I wasn’t happy with it, but it’s the way it is,” Gates continued. “It’s the rules. I have to deal with it. I can’t keep crying over spilled milk. I’ve got to get ready to play Week Five. Now I’ve got eight weeks of training camp. That’s the way I take it.”
In his 13th year in the NFL, Gates is the Chargers all-time leader in receptions (788), receiving yards (10,014) and touchdowns (99). The nine-time Pro Bowler is in the final year of his contract.
The focus now is on moving forward. Gates said he’s using the experience to teach his kids about adversity and help other players on the team not make the same mistake.
Though the suspension may make him a marked man, it also won’t define him.
“One thing about me, I don’t read much, I don’t listen to the media,” he said. “I don’t watch SportsCenter that much. I’ve heard things said from certain players in the league, but I think the thing that matters to me most is probably the guys that are around me. The people that know me.
“I’m an inner city kid,” he continued. “I grew up in Detroit, so dealing with a little adversity is part of my forte. I grew up in a rough neighborhood. I lost my sister to lupus. So sports are a big part of my life, but it isn’t everything. Again, I apologize to my teammates and my family, but this is something I can definitely get over. If I can deal with what I had to deal with last year with my sister, I can definitely move forward from this.”