- Bill Williamson, ESPN Staff Writer
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San Diego star tight end Antonio Gates turned 33 this week.
Let’s face it, 33 is starting to reach graybeard status for NFL skill-position players.
It is reasonable to think Gates’ better days are behind him, in large part because of injuries. He has been beaten up over the past five years and his numbers have taken a dip.
He did play 15 games last season, his most since 2009, but his stats slid nevertheless. His 49 catches and 538 yards were his lowest totals since 2003, his rookie season.
Historically, there haven’t been many great statistical seasons by tight ends 33 or older. According to ESPN Stats & Information, only five times has a tight end over age 33 caught at least 70 passes. Tony Gonzalez, the greatest tight end of all time, has done it the past four seasons.
The only time a tight end has gone over the 1,000–yard receiving mark beyond age 33 was 1965, when Pete Retzlaff had 1,190 receiving yards at age 34.
Gates’ last 1,000-yard receiving season came in 2009. While he can still be an impact player, history says Gates' days as a dominant player may be behind him.
9hEric D. Williams