Antonio Gates practices some, but still sore

San Diego Chargers star tight end Antonio Gates made progress toward playing Sunday night at Indianapolis by practicing on a limited basis Thursday. He didn’t practice Wednesday after missing the past two games (that were sandwiched between a bye week) with a foot injury.

Gates still has to improve some, but the team is hopeful he can play Sunday. Gates said he was “incredibly sore” after his limited session, which, of course, isn’t a great sign.

The Chargers need him. They are stretched thin on offense because of injuries, starting receiver Malcolm Floyd didn’t practice Thursday for the second straight day after aggravating a hamstring injury Monday night against Denver that kept him out for a month. Receiver Legedu Naanee was limited Thursday because of a month-long hamstring injury. He has missed a month-plus because of the injury. Receiver Patrick Crayton will miss, at least, three games after having wrist surgery Wednesday.

Gates’ backup, Randy McMichael, hasn’t practiced this week because of a hamstring injury. Third-string tight end Kris Wilson didn’t practice Thursday because of a back injury. Running back Ryan Mathews hasn’t practiced all week because of an ankle injury that kept him out against Denver. Backup Mike Tolbert will likely start at Indianapolis. Tolbert had 111 rushing yards against Denver. Guard Louis Vasquez has been out all week with a neck injury.

The Chargers, who are 5-5 after winning three straight games, are strapped by injuries. But if Gates can continue to make progress, it would be a major positive development for the team.