Tight end Antonio Gates wanted to play Sunday.
His body had different intentions, though.
Gates -- battling an MCL sprain in his right knee that he suffered on the final drive of the Packers game – tested his injury Saturday night, but didn’t feel it was healed enough to allow him to contribute on the field in the way he’s accustomed.
The 13-year NFL veteran is no stranger to fighting through injury to help his team on game days. He’s dealt with numerous ailments over the years, including foot, shoulder and toe issues, but this is the first time he’s had to navigate a knee problem, and it’s presented its own set of challenges – namely, an imposition on Gates’ ability to move laterally, which is a big part of his game.
"One thing I’ve learned is that when you play, you have to feel like you can make a difference or contribute at some point,” Gates said. “Sometimes you get out there and you actually hurt the team. That’s something I refuse to do.
"The knowledge that I understand about my body and the things that I know, it was difficult what I was dealing with [in relation to] how I play and how I move," he added. "Hopefully this week it’s gotten a lot better. We’ll see how it goes. It’s kind of day-to-day. I’m doing everything known to man to go out and play. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to be out -- after sitting out for four weeks -- and then coming back and having to deal with something like this, that’s lingering.”
Gates served a four-game suspension at the start of the season because of using performance-enhancing drugs, then played in two games before being sidelined when the Raiders came to town. He caught 18 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns against the Packers and the Steelers.
As for his knee, the eight-time Pro Bowler said he will “listen to his body,” preferring that method over anything an MRI or "expert" will tell him. The old-school approach to injury recovery and management is something that has always worked for Gates, who said he doesn’t allow himself to be influenced by someone else’s predictions of how long an injury will or won’t take to heal.
"I just test it and see how I feel," he explained.