Antonio Gates: 11 Questions About Fantasy Football

Antonio Gates Paul Rudd Fantasy Football Chart - P 2011
Peter Yang

The starting tight end for the San Diego Chargers explains why he'd draft Drew Brees over Aaron Rodgers.

Last season, Antonio Gates of the San Diego Chargers, who appears on THR's fantasy football cover story with actor Paul Rudd, racked up better stats than just about any other tight end in the NFL, even while missing six games due to injury. He’d be a shoe-in for top pick at the position this year among fantasy players, except that he’s still rehabbing instead of practicing. That could change any day, though. The Hollywood Reporter’s Paul Bond asked him about his health, and about how fantasy football collides with his real life.

THR: Were fantasy players who drafted you mad at you when you got injured last year and missed some games?

Antonio Gates: Some would tweet me and they were like, ‘come on dude, you could have at least told me you weren’t playing. You’re an important part of my team.’ But unless something detrimental happened where it was obvious I wouldn’t play, I couldn’t leak that information. We don’t ever want to give the opposing team an advantage.

THR'S COVER STORY: What Fantasy Football Means to Hollywood

THR: You ever get any angry tweets because of your injury last year, or because you had a bad game?

Gates: Not necessarily angry. Some guys who didn’t pick me would say ‘thanks a lot, you beat me in the championship. You helped my friend win.’ But I don’t really get the nasty comments. It’s like a cult. Some of them act like a coach, telling me how many touchdowns they need from me that day. Sometimes I respond. It’s kind of fun.”

THR: You’re nationally famous now because of fantasy, right?

Gates: Yeah. They might not recognize the face, but they definitely know the name, just because fantasy football is so popular now. People are more exposed to NFL players’ names.

PHOTOS: Hollywood's Biggest Fantasy Football Fans

THR: So, how are you feeling this year? Are you still sore? Should fantasy players worry about drafting you too early?

Gates: I’m just taking it easy, man. I’m going into my ninth season and just doing everything I can to be 100 percent for the season opener. I’ll be fine. It’s more just about resting.

THR: Some players actually play fantasy football, drafting their friends, benching their friends. Is there any smack talk in the locker room?

Gates: Not really, but we have employees in the building who kind of, you know, come up to you and casually ask how you are feeling. What they really want to know is if they should bench you that game. We joke around, but there’s some truth to it.

STORY: Fantasy Football's $1 Billion-a-Year Business, 27 Million Players: 'It's a Sickness'

THR: Do the coaches have any opinion on fantasy football?

Gates: They never talk about it. You have to understand that even though there’s a fantasy league going on, our families and our income, they’re dependent on what we do in our every-day lives in the NFL. Our fantasy league is a reality.

VIDEO: Fantasy Football: Behind the Scenes Photo Shoot

THR: I know you don’t play, but if you did, who would you draft first?

Gates: It’s gotta be a quarterback. Philip Rivers is the guy I would draft.

EXCLUSIVE: 'Entourage's' Jerry Ferrara Explains His Fantasy Football Obsession

THR: Well, he’s your quarterback, so of course. What if he wasn’t available?

GATES: Peyton Manning. The guy, you know, is going to blow the cover off the ball. Or Drew Brees, because he is going to score a lot of points.

THR: Why not Michael Vick?

Gates: I guess because of the structure of his game, so you just never know. But he probably would have been in my top five just because he can do so many things with the football.

THR: Why Drew Brees over Aaron Rodgers?

Gates: Because I played with him. He’s a friend.

THR: Any thoughts on how to improve fantasy football.

Gates: It definitely created a buzz for me -- created a buzz for a lot of guys, offensively. One day I think it could grow from the defensive perspective, so defensive players could get more recognition. That’s where it’s lacking, because people still don’t understand how big an impact the defensive guys make on the game.