Antonio Gates reflects on the Rivers/Manning trade: 'Who wouldn't want to play in San Diego?'

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Philip Rivers retired this week after 17 seasons in the NFL, all but the last one with the San Diego Chargers – but you may remember that he was actually, originally, a New York Giant.

Back in 2004, Eli Manning was the No. 1 overall draft pick…by the San Diego Chargers, a team he apparently didn’t want to play for. The Giants drafted Rivers at No. 4 overall, and soon the two teams swung a trade to swap rookie quarterbacks.

The rest is, as they say, history; Manning won two Super Bowls over 16 seasons in the Big Apple, while Rivers spent 16 years in San Diego and one in Indianapolis in a career that may see him join Eli in Canton someday.

Had the trade not gone down, though, Antonio Gates would possibly have become the Chargers’ all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns – the latter of which is also the NFL all-time leading total for tight ends – catching balls from Eli, and he reflected on still being salty about that with Zach Gelb on Wednesday night on CBS Sports Radio.

“I think I was frustrated in terms of who gets drafted and worries about where they’re playing?” Gates laughed. “As a high school and college kid, as you move up the ladder, your dream is about playing professional sports; at that moment, to me, you should be happier about being in a position to live a dream than worried about where it is.”

The Chargers and Giants locked horns four times while Rivers and Manning were active, and the Bolts won all four games; of course, New York won two Super Bowls while then-San Diego won five AFC West titles but made only on AFC Championship Game, but perhaps, that could have been different.

“Eli still had a great career in New York, but it’s unfortunate that he had his father guide him in the way he thought was best for his son,” Gates continued. “You see that with a lot of athletes, but for the most part, I felt like it was an honor and privilege to play, let alone in San Diego – who wouldn’t want to play in San Diego?”

Manning retired with a 125-121 record in regular-season and playoff games, but Rivers did edge him out, going 128-107 in San Diego/Los Angeles and 11-6 this season with Indianapolis. All’s well that ends well, says Gates, who got to play for 15 years with someone he called a “first-ballot Hall of Famer.”

“It worked itself out for everybody.”

Hear more from Gates’ interview with Zach Gelb below!

Follow Zach Gelb on Twitter: @ZachGelb

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