Chargers take hard stance with Gates

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 29, 2005

The Associated Press

Antonio Gates, who set an NFL record for touchdown catches by a tight end last season, was given an ultimatum by the San Diego Chargers on Thursday:

Get to camp by Saturday afternoon or face a three-game suspension.

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Gates, whose holdout has been totally obscured by the long-running dispute between Terrell Owens and the Philadelphia Eagles, has been seeking a long-term contract to replace the $380,000 he is due to make this year. He was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2003.

The ultimatum came in the form of a letter sent to Gates' agent, Andre Colona. It said that if Gates isn't at camp by 12:30 p.m. Saturday, he will be suspended for the Chargers' final two exhibition games and the Sept. 11 home game against Dallas.

In order to avoid a suspension, the All-Pro tight end was told by the Chargers that he will need to either sign a new multiyear deal or the one-year contract for $380,000.

''We just can't agree on money and years,'' general manager A.J. Smith said Thursday. ''We want to know where we're going.''

Smith said the team is still open to negotiate, but it also needs to know if Gates is going to be part of the team.

Colona has not returned repeated calls seeking comment.

In just his second season, Gates had 13 touchdown catches to set the NFL single-season record for tight ends. He led the team with 81 catches for 964 yards.



General manager Jerry Angelo says the team has made its final offer to running back Cedric Benson, the only first-round pick left unsigned.

''After missing all of training camp, we want to make it abundantly clear that the Chicago Bears have made their best and final offer to Cedric Benson,'' Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said in a statement.

''No dollars are left on the bargaining table and at this point the only contract discussions that will be entertained will be reflective of the considerable loss of value to the club created by the players' extended absence,'' the statement said.

Benson's holdout reached its 26th day Thursday and the former Texas star, the fourth overall choice in the draft, has already missed two preseason games.

Benson's agent, Eugene Parker, did not return calls placed by The Associated Press.



DeJuan Groce, who filled in for an injured Travis Fisher last season, will replace Jerametrius Butler as a starting cornerback.

Butler torn a right knee ligament on the first day of training camp and is out for the season.

Last year, cornerback Travis Fisher broke an arm in the preseason, prompting Groce to start the season opener against the Arizona Cardinals.

''He's having the best camp of all the corners, by far,'' coach Mike Martz said of Groce. ''He just has been a standout all through camp. We look at him as a starter when we talk about personnel.''

Groce played in the preseason opener against Chicago. He had one tackle and recovered a fumble.



Linebacker Peter Boulware's expected return to the Baltimore Ravens was delayed as doctors scrutinized the results of his physical Thursday.

Boulware, who was a $6 million salary-cap casualty this spring, impressed team officials in a workout Wednesday at the team's training complex.

''There's a process you have to go through, and we're going to be prudent about that,'' Ravens coach Brian Billick said. ''The doctors want to make sure they all have a chance to sign off on what they need to sign off on. I think we're in good shape, but we have to wait until everybody gets through doing the poking and prodding they want to do.''

Boulware, 30, is the Ravens' career leader with 67 1/2 sacks. However, the four-time Pro Bowl selection hasn't played since December 2003 and missed all of last season with knee and toe injuries.



After missing nearly two weeks with a groin injury, Maurice Clarett returned to practice Thursday, the last day of training camp for the Denver Broncos.

Now, the question is whether his return has come too late to make the team.

Denver's third-round draft choice hadn't practiced since Aug. 8 due to a strained right groin, an injury that, as recently as Wednesday, didn't appear to be getting better.

Coach Mike Shanahan, however, has been blunt in his assessment of Clarett all week, not shirking from how hard it would be for a rookie, or any player, to make the roster if he's not practicing.

His teammates and coach have been fielding constant questions about Clarett this week. They keep reiterating that the oft-troubled running back has nothing to gain by being on the sideline.

''You can't make the club in the tub. We all know that,'' quarterback Jake Plummer said.