"I've always been optimistic about playing in a game, whether I was injured or not here -- it didn't matter," Gates said Wednesday, via ESPN's Eric D. Williams. "So, I think I'm well aware of the preparation that needs to be put in throughout the week to go play a game at the highest level possible. With that being said ... it just depends on how I feel leading up to Sunday."
Gates rejoined the Chargers on Sunday after skipping the entirety of training camp and preseason. Previously, L.A. did little to upgrade the tight end position after Hunter Henry went down with an ACL tear in May.
A reunion with Gates always made sense from a familiarity perspective. However, with Wednesday being his first practice this year, playing Sunday would be an accelerated timeframe, even for a player with such experience with quarterback Philip Rivers and the offense.
Coach Anthony Lynn took a more measured approach to the idea of Gates playing a significant role in Week 1.
"I'm going to watch him closely this week," Lynn said. "I want to know where he is conditioning-wise. We know that he can help us. That's why we brought him back. I don't know how much yet, but we'll see."
Gates is coming off a season in which he earned a career-low 316 yards, 30 receptions and three touchdowns. The Chargers offense didn't awaken until it replaced the veteran with Henry in the starting lineup. With few tight end options, however, bringing back a future Hall of Famer who knows the offense made sense for a team with playoff aspirations.
While it felt like Gates waited until after the preseason was over so he could skip the laborious offseason work, the tight end suggested sides needed time to figure out a contract.
"We disagreed on certain things, and I think what we agreed on is that we had an opportunity this year to be a part of this family," Gates said. "This will always be family to me. So, it's like forgiving a family member and then moving forward.
"Our goal is to go out and try to win a Super Bowl, and that's what I wanted to be a part of. So that's what we agreed on and I came to the same conclusion, and so here I am today."
Sunday marks the beginning of Gates' 16th season with the Chargers. Whether he starts that on the field or the sideline remains to be seen.