Chiefs praise former TE Gonzalez’s retirement

Even though Tony Gonzalez is retiring as a member of the Atlanta

Falcons, the Kansas City Chiefs still view the 13-time Pro Bowl

tight end as one of their own.

One day after Gonzalez reaffirmed that he’ll never play another

NFL game, Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said in a statement that he’ll

”always be considered a part of the Chiefs family.”

Gonzalez was drafted by the Chiefs and spent his first 12

seasons in Kansas City. He was traded to the Falcons in 2009, when

it appeared that Atlanta was going to give him a better shot at

playing in the Super Bowl that eluded Gonzalez his entire

career.

At halftime of his final game Sunday, Gonzalez was presented

with a half Chiefs, half Falcons commemorative helmet. Atlanta

wound up losing 21-20 to the Carolina Panthers.

”On behalf of the entire Chiefs family, I want to congratulate

Tony on an incredible career,” Hunt said. ”What he was able to

accomplish during his time in the NFL is truly remarkable, and I

have no doubt that Tony is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. We were

very blessed to have him in a Chiefs uniform for 12 seasons, and

his contributions on and off the field were extraordinary.”

Gonzalez pondered retirement last season, but after the Falcons

came up just 10 yards short in the NFC title game, he put it off to

make one more run at the Super Bowl. Instead, an abundance of

injuries, poor offensive line play and a defense prone to big plays

resulted in a 4-12 finish and a hollow ending to Gonzalez’s

brilliant playing career.

”Obviously it just wasn’t in my cards, and I’m OK with that,

honestly,” Gonzalez said. ”Don’t ever look at me and say, `Well,

he never won the big game.’ I hope there’s no glitch on my record

because of that, and if you think that way, I don’t know what

you’re talking about. I really don’t because this is the ultimate

team sport.”

The Chiefs made the playoffs on three occasions with Gonzalez,

twice losing in the divisional round and once losing a wild-card

game. Along with losing the NFC title game last season, Atlanta

also came up short in the wild-card round in 2011 and the

divisional round in 2010.

Those playoff failures aside, Gonzalez still finished his career

with NFL records for tight ends of 1,325 receptions, 15,127 yards

receiving, 111 touchdowns receiving and 31 100-yard receiving

games. He had 916 of those catches for 10,940 yards and 76 TDs in

Kansas City.

”He’s one of the all-time greats, a future Hall of Famer,”

said Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who never had Gonzalez on one of his

teams yet always admired him from afar. ”I’m proud to have known

him, and still know him, and I’m hoping he enjoys retirement and

does as well there as he does on the football field, which I’m sure

he will with that Cal education.”

Gonzalez said he had no regrets with the way his career ended,

and he didn’t sound as if he’ll reconsider stepping onto the field

again. Over 40 family members and friends were on hand for his

final game at the Georgia Dome on Sunday.

”This is like graduating to me,” Gonzalez said. ”I’m going to

miss it. I’m going to miss my classmates – my teammates. I’m going

to miss my coaches – my teachers. I’m going to miss them.”

Associated Press writer George Henry in Atlanta contributed to

this report.

Online: http://pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL