Throughout the 2012 season, Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez stated a number of times that he was 95 percent sure he was going to retire. After the Falcons defeated the Seahawks in the Divisional Playoff Game, Gonzalez claimed that the probability of his retirement had risen to 97 percent. Once the season ended, it looked like Falcons’ fans had seen the last of the future Hall of Famer in an NFL uniform. However, according to Falcons’ General Manager Thomas Dimitroff, the chances for a Tony Gonzalez return to the field are much higher than originally thought.
Jan 20, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez (88) reacts after losing the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers at the Georgia Dome. The 49ers won 28-24. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Since season’s end, Dimitroff has been pushing extremely hard for Gonzalez to return for his 18th NFL season, and understandably so. It’s hard to replace such an integral part of a dynamic offense, especially when that player is the best tight end in NFL history.
Apparently, Dimitroff’s insistence may be paying off.
“Tony has done so much for us on and off the field, and I don’t believe, not stating that he would be lying to anyone, but I don’t believe the 95 percent,” Dimitroff stated on NBC Sports Network’s Pro Football Talk. “I want to believe it’s a lot closer to 50/50, to be honest with you, and we’ve had discussions. Obviously Mike Smith has had discussions with him. We’re all in a good place. Ultimately it’s up to Tony to decide if he wants to come back and potentially catch 100 balls again. I think it’s one of those situations that Tony was so effective for us down the stretch and I can’t imagine that his appetite wasn’t sort of whet from his contributions in the playoffs.”
Dimitroff went on to claim that there is no time-table for Gonzalez’s decision, and that he is still listed as the number 1 tight end on the Falcons’ depth chart. However, he did explain how it would be in the Falcons’ best interest if Gonzalez made his decision before the 2013 NFL Draft.
Needless to say, it would be a huge boost for the Falcons if Gonzalez does decide to return for one more season, particularly if that decision is made before the Draft. The Falcons would be able to focus on more pressing team needs, which include adding pieces to a reeling defense, and replacing an age-worn Michael Turner at RB.
Gonzalez has proved that he is still at the top of his game, even at the age of 38. He caught 93 passes for 930 yards and eight touchdowns last season, and was a major reason why the Falcons were a mere 10 yards away from playing in their first Super Bowl since the 1998 season.
It’s hard to imagine Tony Gonzalez walking away from the game after he was so close to reaching his ultimate goal. Personally, I believe that Falcons’ fans will have the honor of watching 88 strap on his cleats for one more season – and what an honor it will be.