The most productive tight end in the history of the NFL is officially putting off retirement for one more season.
Tony Gonzalez told FOX Sports in an exclusive interview that he has informed the Atlanta Falcons he is coming back and the two sides are on the verge of a new contract that will put him back with Matt Ryan and company for one more run.
"After discussing it with my family and really, truly struggling with this decision, I informed the Falcons that I would like to return for one more shot," Gonzalez told FOX Sports after meeting with doctors in order to get medical clearance. "Considering how this season ended, I wanted to give it another run with Matt (Ryan), Smitty (head coach Mike Smith) and the guys we have in there. It was the first time I had won a playoff game and hopefully coming back once more we can take it one step further."
The all-time leading receiver among tight ends and second only to Jerry Rice in all-time receptions with 1,242, Gonzalez insists he thought his mind was made up in the other direction and was well on his way to a happy post-NFL career. But the lure of getting to his first Super Bowl seemed too close to pass up.
"I was done, I thought I had my mind made up," said Gonzalez. "This whole year I knew it would be my last, but the way our final game ended and talking to all the guys in the locker room, in the end it was too difficult of a way for me to step away from the game. It’s not often in a career you’re around a group like we have down in Atlanta."
Getting the 13-time Pro Bowl selection to return had seemed like a virtual impossibility. One obstacle was Gonzalez actually had to hold off on three different offers from television networks for the chance to play in his first Super Bowl, hoping such opportunities will still be waiting one year later.
Another is the fact that Gonzalez had informed his family he was retiring and made several commitments to his son, Nikko, for what he thought would’ve been his first season at home in California, where Nikko goes to school.
"The Falcons were great about that fact and how important my commitments are as a dad," said Gonzalez. "Smitty has always been great with working with us when it comes to family. There are things I promised Nikko that the team is going work with me on so I can keep my promise to my son. That was a huge thing for me, and they couldn’t have been more understanding. They really are a family organization. Not sure what the dates are yet, but at least I know I can be there for things I promised my son I would be there for."
Last season, Gonzalez had one of his most productive in recent years hauling in 93 passes and eight TDs — two more TDs coming in the postseason. The Falcons fell to the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. Gonzalez walked through the tunnel and waved to fans giving him a standing ovation for what he thought was his final time.
"I have to say also I was pretty overwhelmed by the fans and how much they reached out to me. It was really something. They sent me all these videos, posts on Twitter, Facebook, things like that — a bunch of different messages hoping I would return. Really makes you put things in perspective.
"I am coming back for one reason and one reason only, the chance to win a Super Bowl."