Though he played twice in five days, Antonio Gates acknowledged Monday he still feels a hamstring injury he sustained in Game 2.
“I’m not 100 percent,” said the eight-time Pro Bowler, “but it’s good enough for what I am trying to get done as a team.”
Gates, 36, said the injury suffered versus Jacksonville, in pursuit of an end-zone pass Sept. 18, was the first hamstring injury of his career.
He sat out defeats to the Colts and Saints before he came back 21 days later to play at Oakland, where he grabbed a touchdown pass. He returned to the lineup Thursday night, versus Denver, and made two third-down catches on the Chargers’ lone touchdown drive in a 21-13 victory.
Gates, who sat out the preseason to stay fresh, has had labored moments since returning, including a red-zone fumble and two drops.
Before and after the injury, he commanded the attention of defenses.
Gates’ motioning near the goal line in the season opener, for example, caused three Kansas City Chiefs defenders to misalign and opened room for a Melvin Gordon scoring run.
With Gates in a reduced role, rookie Hunter Henry has produced several big plays, including a 59-yard reception at Oakland and a scheme-abetted, 5-yard scoring catch opposite an above-average cornerback, Chris Harris Jr.
Performing like a contender for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, Henry has team-highs in yards per catch (16.3 yards) and TD receptions (3) and has provided varied, effective blocking.
Gates, reiterating a theme he set forth this past summer, said Henry is a tough, smart player and a “phenomenal” draft selection of the Spanos-Telesco front office.
Ex-Raider helps Bolts
The chance to go from the practice squad to an active roster, the linebacker said, led him to choose the Chargers.
“It was a business decision, at the end of the day,” Toomer said.
The Sept. 28 move has worked out for Toomer and his new team. At Oakland 11 days later, Toomer made an impressive tackle for loss. Against Denver, he caused and recovered a fumble.
“It’s going along great,” Toomer said. “These coaches are bringing me along tremendously.”
Injuries in his NFL career derailed Toomer, a fifth-round choice of Seattle’s who, at 234 pounds, posted an astounding 42-inch vertical jump coming out of Idaho in 2012.
“This is year five, and I’m finally healthy,” he said. “You can’t do anything if you’re hurt.”
With Oakland, Toomer backed up a Super Bowl MVP in Malcolm Smith, the weak inside linebacker, and also prepped at middle linebacker.
He has spelled Chargers starter Denzel Perryman, a mentor who is working through a shoulder injury; and worked alongside rookie starter Jatavis Brown, an explosive, play-making replacement to Manti T’eo, who sustained a season-ending injury in Week 3.
Both Brown and Toomer have added speed to San Diego’s middle-of-the-field pass defense, which the Chiefs scorched in Week 1.
More time needed
Monday was the first day the team could activate a six-week window, in which guard-center Chris Watt can return to practice.
There appears to be no rush to start Watt’s clock.
Watt is coming back from knee surgery, and the team has 10 offensive linemen on its 53-man roster. Watt said he has made progress.
- Gates and WR Travis Benjamin were non-participants in Monday’s practice.
- Defensive backs Brandon Flowers and Jahleel Addae appear to be trending toward a return but neither one has yet to be cleared for full contact.