LOS ANGELES -- For the first time in his 16-year NFL career, Los Angeles Chargers tight end Antonio Gates said he dealt with bouts of dizziness, light-headedness and struggles with balance -- reasons he did not practice all week and was questionable to play on Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams.
"It was scary," Gates said. "I wasn't sure whether I was going to play or not, but I just gradually took it slow and I was able to go today."
After a couple days of rest, Gates said he finally felt like himself on Friday, and recovered enough to make it on the field Sunday in his team's 35-23 loss to the Rams.
Diagnosed with vertigo this week by the Chargers' medical staff, Gates said he does not know how he got it, but believes rest and paying more attention to his diet helped him overcome the initial symptoms later in the week.
"Our staff, our doctors and our trainers were great in terms of monitoring me throughout the whole week," Gates said. "And I want to play the game. I want to go to battle with these guys; I just tried to make the right choice that can help this team."
Gates, 38, did not participate in offseason work or training camp, but signed a one-year deal with the Chargers just before the regular season began to help replace Hunter Henry, who suffered a torn ACL knee injury in May and remains on the physically unable to perform list.
Gates recorded three catches for 45 receiving yards on five targets against the Rams, with a long of 27 yards. All three of Gates' catches were on third downs and resulted in first downs.
Gates said the missed practices were not a concern because of all of the time he has spent in the Chargers' offense.
"This was my 16th season, so I don't know how much I need from a physical standpoint to try and get ready to play," Gates said. "But might I add it's just not easy to do that. I don't want people looking at the situation thinking it's just so easy to come up, step into a game and make plays that try to help your team win."
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers said Gates is gradually working his way back into the offense.
"We're going to need him as the year continues to progress," Rivers said.
Chargers defensive tackle Damion Square added he felt like Gates looked like his old self on Sunday.
"He got involved in a big situation, like he's used to," Square said. "He's a big-time guy, in my opinion the greatest tight end who ever played the game, so this type of situation doesn't bother him."
A primary reason Gates did not retire -- returning for one final season -- is he believes that the Chargers can compete for a Super Bowl.
And even after a disheartening loss to the Rams in the Battle for L.A., Gates said that remains the case.
"Nobody has won the Super Bowl in the first four weeks -- not that I can remember," Gates joked. "So this is something that we can build on, and I understand every game is something you have to take advantage of, and embrace the opportunity.
"Unfortunately right now we're 1-2. That's why you play 16 games, because after 16 games you tally up the wins and find out who moves on to the postseason."