Chargers TE Gates unlikely to play

Jan 10, 2008 - 6:49 AM SAN DIEGO (Ticker) -- The chances of San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates playing in Sunday's AFC divisional playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts appear slim.

While Gates is listed as day-to-day with a sprained left big toe, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the injury is actually a dislocation.

While the organization has said it hopes to have the Pro Bowl tight end in action Sunday, it may be unrealistic to think Gates can bounce back from such an injury so quickly.

"I don't know how long it's going to be," San Diego general manager A.J. Smith told the Union-Tribune on Tuesday. "Any time that a star player is away from you, obviously it hurts you."

Coach Norv Turner was keeping up an optimistic front even though Gates was unable to practice Wednesday.

"He's making progress," Turner said. "He's going through all his treatments and all those things and we'll see where he's at later in the week. He's making good progress. I have hope that he'll be able to play."

The Chargers did get some good news Wednesday when fullback Lorenzo Neal practiced for the first time since suffering a fractured fibula against the Tennessee Titans on December 9. Neal was named to the All-Pro team earlier Wednesday.

Regardless of whether he tries to play Sunday, the Chargers are expected to keep Gates active in the hopes he can play in the AFC championship game or Super Bowl, if the team makes it that far.

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin suffered a similar injury in Week 13 against the Cleveland Browns and was forced to miss the team's next game. He did return the following week, however.

Gates suffered his injury during the second quarter of the Chargers' 17-6 victory over the Tennessee Titans in Sunday's AFC wild card game.

Before Gates could get to his feet following a short reception, Titans defensive tackle Tony Brown hammered him to the ground and it appeared the tight end's big toe got caught in the turf and bent backward.

The team's leading receiver with 75 receptions and nine touchdown catches, Gates was taken from the field on a cart and did not return.

"It's going to make it vital that we get it started if Antonio is not able to go because obviously we are losing a weapon," Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. "Antonio attracts a lot of attention. Not having him, then a lot of attention is going to go more so on the running game. It's just going to make it that more important to establish it."

Having Neal back and blocking for Tomlinson would provide a huge boost to San Diego's running game.

"We've missed him, to say the least," Tomlinson said. "Just having him back out there a lot of us were in disbelief just seeing him out there. A lot of people went over to mess with him. "Who's the new guy?' We're happy to have him back."

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