Antonio Gates joined his San Diego Chargers teammates on Thursday for the first practice of training camp, a day after his 22-year-old sister died after battling lupus for three years.
"My strength comes from just me believing in the right things and what I did as a brother," Gates said after practice.
The star tight end missed most of offseason workouts to be in Detroit with sister Pamela.
"Anybody, any situation — you don’t have to be a football player — no one is immune to trials and tribulations in life," Gates said. "When it happens, it’s something you have to deal with. Life goes on, for the most part. At that time, dealing with it, being with my family was the right thing to do."
Gates lauded coach Mike McCoy for letting him deal with his sister’s illness. Last season, Gates would often fly to Detroit after road games to be with his sister.
"It’s something that, in my whole career, my 34 years of living, I’ve never been in that type of situation," Gates said. "It’s just one of those things where you try to make the right decision. I think it was the correct decision to be there with my family."
Quarterback Philip Rivers said one of the first balls he threw in a 7-on-7 drill was to Gates.
"It was nice to have him back out there," Rivers said.
"When you’ve built the chemistry we’ve built over 10 seasons, we kind of picked up where we left off," Rivers said.
The only player who wasn’t able to practice was right guard Jeromey Clary, who’s on the physically unable to perform list after undergoing hip surgery.
Cornerback Jason Verrett, the team’s first-round draft pick, has been cleared after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery and was able to practice.
McCoy said Verrett "some tough decisions on the quarterbacks, driving on some balls."