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Antonio Gates Suspended: Latest Details and Reaction Surrounding Chargers TE

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIJuly 2, 2015

USA Today

Veteran San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates has been suspended for the first four games of the 2015 NFL season for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. 

He wasn't alone. Three other players, including New York Jets star Sheldon Richardson, were suspended for substance abuse on Thursday, per NFL on ESPN:

NFL on ESPN @ESPNNFL

NFL suspensions issued today. http://t.co/4SpJZaRPU5

The Chargers released a statement on Gates' suspension through their official website:

We are tremendously disappointed for our team and our fans as well as Antonio, but no more disappointed than Antonio is with himself. Antonio is a member of the Chargers' family and we will continue to support him 100-percent. We have the utmost confidence he will stay in excellent shape for the season and be ready to go when he returns in Week 5. While it's unfortunate to not have him to start the season, we have complete confidence our tight end group will continue to play at a high level.

Gates supplied his own response to the suspension, which also appeared in the website's news release:

Antonio Gates @AntonioGates85

“In my 12 years in the NFL, I have taken treme #ltw http://t.co/8LoFenX5GK

Gates' slip-up is nevertheless a harmful blow to a San Diego franchise entering a crossroads 2015 campaign. Gates is a dynamic pass-catching tight end who proved last season that he can still make a big impact, as he posted 12 receiving touchdowns—the second-highest total of his career.

Defensive leader Eric Weddle recently ended a holdout without resolving a contract dispute, while five-time Pro Bowl quarterback Philip Rivers is entering a contract season and could well move to another team if the Chargers have a down year.

Rand Getlin of NFL Network outlined the timetable for Gates' return:

Rand Getlin @RandGetlin

Antonio Gates will be eligible to return to the #Chargers’ active roster on October 5 following the team’s game against the #Browns.

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Rotoworld.com's Patrick Daugherty raised a relevant point in light of Thursday's news:

Patrick Daugherty @RotoPat

Antonio Gates missing games against the Lions, Bengals, Vikings and Browns. It will be now-or-never time for athletic freak Ladarius Green.

With Gates missing for a quarter of the season, a lot will be expected out of young tight end Ladarius Green, a fourth-year pro with only 40 career receptions despite his superior physical tools and athleticism to be a threat in the passing game.

Even with a most ideal mentor in Gates to guide him, Green hasn't capitalized on his potential. Newly arrived receivers Jacoby Jones and Stevie Johnson will look to help Rivers, while rookie first-round pick Melvin Gordon provides hope as the No. 1 running back for a team that was 30th in rushing offense last season.

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