Antonio Gates says he was “very close” to signing with Colts last year

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Philip Rivers is going to be playing quarterback for the Colts this year and he said his relationship with head coach Frank Reich, offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni and tight ends coach Jason Michael was a big factor in his decision to sign with the team.

All three were assistants for the Chargers during Rivers’ long run with the franchise and that history almost landed them another former Charger star during the 2019 season. Tight end Antonio Gates announced his retirement in January after sitting out last season, but told Jim Ayello of the Indianapolis Star that he was “very close” to joining the Colts last year.

Gates said he got calls from a handful of teams, but the familiarity with the Colts made them the top choice if he was going to continue playing.

“I was in the same boat Philip is in now,” Gates said. “You understand the people you’re going to work with. They don’t have to worry about me as a human being. They know me. And they know, ‘OK, this is his ritual and how he gets prepared and gets ready.’ Sometimes as a veteran, you need that. That helps you. . . . It was just so familiar. Even the players had, like, similarities if that makes sense. It’s just crazy how everything works. It did look familiar and when they called plays, it just fit what we had done over the course of a decade in California.”

The prospect of a return was still on his mind during an October visit to Indianapolis, but the team’s slide after a 7-2 start led Gates to stay on the sideline. He said he’ll be staying there in 2020 because he doesn’t “feel like I can give that effort right now” to be the kind of player who would help a team.