Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez is one of the best to ever play the position, and is without a doubt a first-ballot Hall of Famer regardless of when he decides to finally hang up the cleats and the pads and move on to a life outside of the locker room.
When asked about his future after yesterday’s NFC Championship Game loss to the San Francisco 49ers, Gonzalez sounded like a man who was ready to move on to a new life away from football — but he hardly slammed the door shut on a possible return to the Falcons this fall for another season.
Regardless, the numbers the 16th year pro out of California are awe-inspiring — especially for someone who has been through the grind for as long as the 6’5″ Pro Bowler. Gonzalez hauled in 93 catches for 930 yards and eight touchdowns this season– finishing second only to another future Hall-of-Famer in Dallas Cowboys‘ tight end Jason Witten in receptions who also had a career season in 2012, hauling in 110 passes.
At a minimum, Gonzalez is still a capable tight end in the NFL, and at his best, he still shows flashes of the extreme athletic ability that made him one of the first college basketball players to successfully make the transition to the position when he entered the league in 1997 as a two-sport star with the California Bears.
Would Tony Gonzalez be welcomed back by the Atlanta Falcons with open arms?
It’s more a matter if this is something he still wants. At 36, Gonzalez is in amazing shape but at some point, the hits start to take a toll, and every NFL player has to consider their lives after football.
It’s a foregone conclusion that Gonzalez will end up as a television analyst — most likely on the Mothership or the NFL Network — when he does finally decide to walk away from the field– whether it be now, or whenever he’s ready.
And that’s the point here.
Gonzalez has earned the right to make that decision without any of our scrutiny or second-guessing. The man is a true professional who played for only two teams in his career and gave his all, playing his heart out every Sunday for both.
No matter what’s in store next for Gonzo, I can promise you one thing:
It’ll be a success.