"I think it definitely changes things a lot because he's obviously one of our playmakers," Pro Bowl running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. "I think our offense, hopefully, opens up a lot more and we'll be able to get the ball down the field some and put more points on the board."
Gates, an All-Pro tight end, makes his season debut on Sunday when the Chargers travel to Denver. Gates missed the opener, serving the final game of a three-game suspension for missing a Chargers signing deadline.
The Chargers offense stalled in Sunday's loss to the Cowboys in the red zone - where Gates does his best work. The Chargers had a first down at the Dallas 7 in the closing minute and couldn't connect on four straight Drew Brees passes.
Count Brees as among those welcoming Gates back.
"Because of the matchups that he creates, when we're trying to throw him the ball, he's able to get open in a lot of different ways against just about anybody," Brees said. "So there he's a great weapon.
"Also, just the fact that he's on the field and people have to worry about him opens things up for other guys - other receivers, L.T. in our running game, and L.T. in our passing game. So, you talk about just a guy who not only gets the ball, but even when he's not getting the ball, he makes an impact." Gates, a team-oriented guy, is bummed about the loss in the opener.
"Obviously I felt I let my team down because I wasn't there to help them this past Sunday," Gates said. "It opens up an opportunity for us to go to Denver and take care of Denver because that was a lost opportunity. We wanted to win our home opener, and we didn't do that."
And regrets in staying out a day past the deadline which cost the team his services?
"You know what? In a way, I mean, considering the circumstances," he said. "I wasn't out there on Sunday. Obviously I wanted to be there, I wanted to be here long-term, just things happened. You learn from them and now it's time for me to look forward and get ready for Denver."