FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Don't close the book on Antonio Gates' NFL career just yet.
The 38-year-old tight end, who played this season on a one-year contract, said he wants to return for a 17th season with the Los Angeles Chargers.
"I just don't see myself walking away with this taste," Gates said after his team's 41-28 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday. "And plus this team. I think when you add Hunter [Henry] back, and hopefully we get Jason Verrett back -- shoot, the sky's the limit. And I want to be a part of it.
"But that has to be a collective decision. I can't just want to come back. So we'll see how it goes."
This season was little bittersweet for Gates after the Chargers did not make him feel wanted during the last offseason.
The Chargers' brass relayed to Gates' representation that his services would not be needed for the 2018 season, opening up more opportunities for emerging tight end Henry.
Then Henry suffered an ACL knee injury in May, and suddenly the veteran's services were needed -- again. Gates believes the Chargers did not have to give him an ultimatum during free agency in February.
"Maybe they felt I was on the brink of whether or not I want to be here or not, and they had to make choices early on," Gates said. "I want to be sure to remind them that I want to come back. I want to be part of something special, and I think we have that here. But that's out of my control in the sense where I can only do what I can do. And we'll see out it goes."
Gates finished the regular season with 28 receptions for 333 yards and two touchdowns. Against New England, Gates totaled five catches for 41 yards, including an 8-yard reception for a score -- perhaps a nice way to end what appears to be a Hall of Fame career for the former college basketball standout at Kent State.
Gates is the Chargers' all-time leader in receptions (960), receiving yards (11,882) and touchdown catches (117). Gates' and Philip Rivers' 90 touchdowns is the most in NFL history by a tight end-quarterback tandem.
"Of course I think I can still play. Do they think I can still play? That's just something -- I know [the Patriots] think I can still play because they keep doubling me," Gates said with a laugh. "A lot of teams think I can still play because they find a way to still double me on third down. That just remains to be seen.
"I'll have to sit down with the head coach and the people that make these decisions and express how motivated I am to come back even better, as a player and as a teammate, and hopefully they bring me back."