Gonzalez eager to shine in final NFL road game
When he first looked at Atlanta’s 2013 schedule, Tony Gonzalez
was thrilled to see a late December rematch with the San Francisco
Gonzalez envisioned the Falcons exacting revenge for San
Francisco’s victory in last season’s NFC title game in Atlanta.
Unfortunately for Gonzalez, the league’s record-setting tight
end, the circumstances couldn’t be much different.
The 49ers are 10-4 and close to securing another trip to the
Atlanta, at 4-10, was the first NFC team eliminated from
postseason contention, essentially making a disappointment out of
Gonzalez’s decision to put off retirement and return for a final
”Last year was last year,” Gonzalez said Friday. ”That’s in
Even so, the Falcons’ freefall in the standings hasn’t caused
Gonzlaez to close out his career in bitterness.
He has focused instead on the good times, from his first 12
seasons with Kansas City to his last five with the Falcons, and the
remarkable consistency as the NFL’s No. 2 career-leading
”That’s what separates average players from good players, good
players from Pro Bowl players and Pro Bowl players from Hall of
Famers,” Gonzalez said. ”That’s what I try to do every time that
I’m out there on that field. Every play is a chance for me to go
out there on that field and be great.”
For the most part, despite only one playoff victory in his
career, Gonzalez has done just that.
Only Jerry Rice caught more passes. Only Rice, Terrell Owens,
Randy Moss and Isaac Bruce had more yards receiving. Only Rice,
Moss, Owens, Cris Carter and Marvin Harrison had more touchdown
Gonzalez redefined his position, statistically surpassing the
numbers posted by Dave Casper, Mike Ditka, John Mackey, Ozzie
Newsome, Charlie Sanders, Shannon Sharpe, Jackie Smith and Kellen
Winslow – eight tight ends enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of
”The great part about him is it doesn’t matter if there’s two
games left or we’re in Week 1 or 2 or whatever,” Falcons
quarterback Matt Ryan said, ”he approaches each one the same way.
He’s intense, focused and excited, and he’s been that way for five
years since I’ve been around him.”
With just two games left, Gonzalez almost can’t believe the end
On one hand, he’s grateful to be almost done because the weekly
grind of practice, conditioning and film study is a crashing
”If you ask any player around the league, it’s not about what
goes on during the week,” he said. ”That’s not the part that
you’re going to miss. I’m forcing myself to try to enjoy it because
The thrill of playing in games, however, still makes him feel
”It’s only two games, but I still want to go out there and give
the very best of me that I can,” Gonzalez said. ”I don’t want to
leave any stone unturned, and that’s always been my approach.
That’s not going to change.”
He’s already feeling nostalgic about returning to the Bay Area,
where he began his college career 20 years ago at California and
went on to become a first-round draft pick by the Chiefs in
Gonzalez, a Southern California native, has tried to buy as many
tickets as possible for family members and friends.
It will be his last chance on the road to make a positive
”I feel great,” he said. ”I could play at a good level for at
least another year, another two years, maybe even three, (but) it’s
over as far as I’m concerned.”
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
AP sports writers Janie McCauley and Charles Odum contributed to