Gates: WRs don't fear going across middle

SAN DIEGO -- Chargers tight end Antonio Gates remembers the respect he and other receivers earned by being man enough to run across the middle of the field, take a big hit and come down with a critical catch when he first arrived in the league 11 years ago.

However, with the NFL’s implementation of new rules that protect defenseless players from head-to-head hits, Gates said things have changed.

"Everybody’s going across the middle now,” Gates said. "Back then, when you went across the middle, you had a little different respect from the game. It’s kind of like, 'Wow, that receiver can go across the middle and make that play. He’s a man's man.'

"That’s kind of changed now. You see receivers all the time going across the middle and making plays now that back in the day, I don’t know if they would go across the middle and make those same plays.”

Gates offered his opinion in response to Washington safety Brandon Meriweather’s comments to reporters on Monday.

Meriweather has received several fines during his seven-year playing career for helmet-to-helmet hits. After two more incidents against the Bears on Oct. 20, the league suspended Meriweather for two games. An appeals process reduced the ban to one game, making him available when San Diego faces Washington this week.

"I guess I just got to take people’s knees out,” Meriweather told reporters in the Redskins’ locker room on Monday. "That’s the only way. I would hate to end a guy’s career over a rule, but I guess it’s better other people than me getting suspended for longer.

"You just have to go low now, man. You’ve got to end people’s careers. You got to tear people's ACLs and mess up people's knees. You can't hit them high anymore."

Gates was diplomatic when talking about Meriweather.

"In his case, I’ve seen some hits and -- I don’t know much about him, I don’t play him twice a year -- so some of those hits look like they’re blatant, and some of them didn't," Gates said. "And how do you make that judgment? How do you make that determination on whether or not he should get fined for it, or whether or not it’s a good play? It’s so hard to say."

Gates said even with the new information and emphasis by the league on reducing concussions, he’d still rather get hit up top instead of at the knees.

"To me, I’ve got more protection up top -- I’ve got shoulder pads and a helmet,” Gates said. "I’m not saying one way is right and the other way is wrong. It’s just so hard to monitor this game with that type of particular situation.

"Sometimes guys are smaller and are going to hit you lower naturally. Sometimes guys are bigger and are probably going to naturally hit you high.”

Chargers rookie receiver Keenan Allen understands big hits are a part of the game, but wants defenders to be smart with how they target vulnerable receivers.

"I think I’d rather be hit high, but in a smart way though -- not exactly trying to take someone’s head off, but at the same time not trying to take my knee out,” Allen said. "You just have to be smart about the situation.”