Chargers are in tight spot without injured Hunter Henry. Could Antonio Gates be the answer?

Chargers tight end Antonio Gates celebrates his record-breaking touchdown for tight ends with quarterback Philip Rivers against the Dolphins at StubHub Center on Sept. 17, 2017.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The same. It’s a feeling general manager Tom Telesco is savoring as the Chargers are set to begin their second training camp back in Los Angeles.

He knows the fields will hold up. He knows Anthony Lynn better. He knows Lynn’s staff, which has stayed essentially intact. And he knows his roster, which underwent minor changes in free agency, is mostly back with a legendary exception — tight end Antonio Gates.

Gates — the Chargers’ all-time leader in catches, yards and touchdowns — wasn’t in the team’s plans when the offseason began, but an injury to third-year tight end Hunter Henry might have changed those plans.


Gates’ agent, Tom Condon, told SiriusXM NFL Radio on Tuesday night that he was “actively negotiating” with the Chargers about Gates coming back. But Thursday, Telesco wouldn’t comment.

“Nothing on him right now,” Telesco repeated whenever asked about Gates.

A reunion between the two certainly makes sense with Gates still on the market as an unrestricted free agent and the Chargers entering the season without their starter. But the team had made it clear in the offseason that it was ready to go forward without Gates, 38, on the roster.

Now matters aren’t as lucid.

Players reported Thursday for the start of training camp, with the team set to take the field at the Jack Hammett Sports Complex in Costa Mesa for the first time Saturday morning at 10 a.m.

If Gates remains unsigned, the Chargers will start training camp with former Denver tight end Virgil Green atop the depth chart. The team signed Green, originally, to pair with Henry in part because of his blocking ability.

The Chargers also have untested players such as Sean Culkin and Braedon Bowman back from last year’s roster and practice squad.

“Don’t forget that we have some guys here who can play who we like,” Telesco said. “And we still have all of training camp and the [final] cut to 53. There are different avenues to look at, but we have some guys we like too. We’ll see how it plays out.”


Bringing Gates back for his 16th season with the Chargers doesn’t have to happen right away. Telesco admitted acclimating Gates would be much easier than a veteran without a history with the team.


Telesco said the club would know Friday which players would not be available for the start of training camp, a list that could include last year’s second-round pick Forrest Lamp. The guard, who suffered a season-ending injury early in training camp last year, needed a second surgery on his knee during his recovery. … Cornerback Jason Verrett, who missed most of last of season with a left knee injury, probably won’t be one of those players, Telesco said. “He was healthy in the offseason program and we were probably more cautious than we had to be. We probably held him back, and he probably wanted to do a lot more. We tried to gently ramp him up, just on volume,” Telesco said. “But he’s a competitive player. He’s full go.” …Telesco said the Chargers would have discussions with the players about protesting social injustices during the national anthem.

Twitter: @DanWoikeSports