Philip Rivers knew it was coming well before the NFL announced it had suspended Antonio Gates for the first four games of the season. By the time the NFL released its statement on Thursday afternoon explaining that Gates had violated the league’s performance enhancing substances policy, by the time Gates released his own statement explaining the failed drug test, Rivers had already heard Gates’ version of the events.
“I knew it was coming,” Rivers told Darren Smith of Mighty 1090AM on Monday. “I had talked to him beforehand.”
And Rivers remains convinced that Gates is telling the truth. Rivers, a friend and teammate of Gates for more than a decade now, is standing behind the Chargers tight end.
“I’m not disappointed in him because I know that it was unintentional,” Rivers said. “I’m by no means mad at him.”
Rivers admitted that he has no way to know for certain if Gates is telling the truth, but he cited his friendship as the reason why he trusts Gates’ explanation. In Gates’ statement on Thursday, he wrote that he took “supplements and holistic medicines” to recover from the season and that he wasn’t aware those supplements contained “banned substances.”
Regardless of how it happened, the Chargers are now without one of their go-to weapons. Gates has not only put up Hall-of-Fame caliber numbers in his entire career, but in 2014 (his 12th season in the league), he still managed to bring down 69 catches for 821 yards and 12 touchdowns.
In his place, the untested Ladarius Green will be forced to take on a larger role in the offense. Last season, Green only took part in roughly 20 percent of the Chargers’ snaps and he only has 40 receptions and three touchdowns in his career.
Still, Rivers says the Chargers are going to manage just fine without Gates for four games.
“With all due to respect to how much we’ll miss a future Hall of Famer, we’re far from dead,” Rivers said. “We’re far from dead.”