clear
Friday May 22nd, 2015 4:28AM

Gonzalez leaning strongly toward retirement

By The Associated Press
FLOWERY BRANCH -- Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez is close to retiring from the NFL.

How close is up in the air.

Gonzalez said Friday that he's 95 percent sure the upcoming season will be his last, but he wasn't ready to completely rule out a return in 2013.

"I've had a great run," he said. "I don't want to be one of those players toward the end of their careers - and nothing against guys that have done it like that in the past - but I want to make sure that I'm at the top of my game when I do go out."

After the Atlanta Falcons finished their second day of training camp Friday, Gonzalez said offseason discussions with family members and friends helped him understand that the end is near.

He's accomplished quite a bit in 15 seasons and last year surpassed Terrell Owens, Tim Brown, Cris Carter and Marvin Harrison to become No. 2 on the league's career receptions list with 1,149 catches.

Considering that he earned a 12th trip to the Pro Bowl last season, Gonzalez believes he could play at a high level for perhaps another three years, but at 36, he doesn't want to hang around too long.

"Sometimes you have to call it quits, and I'm just one of those type of guys that I can't handle being average at this sport because I've been at the top for a while," Gonzalez said. "I hope that's not coming off as cocky, but it's just the way I operate. I don't want to come out there and be somewhat of a role player."

The Falcons, who acquired Gonzalez in a March 2009 trade that sent a second-round draft pick to Kansas City, signed him to a one-year, $6.9 million contract extension before a Week 17 win over Tampa Bay last season.

Though Atlanta played poorly the following week in a wild-card playoff loss at the New York Giants, Gonzalez still finished the regular season with his best numbers in three years with the Falcons, catching 80 passes for 875 yards and seven touchdowns.

Gonzalez insisted that he doesn't want to publicly discuss retirement again until the end of the season.

"I don't want to be a distraction to myself, first and foremost," he said. "I don't want to play games in my head. I'm sticking to it, and we'll know at the end of the season. We have a long time before that day even comes."

Gonzalez is the first NFL tight end - and 13th player in history - with more than 13,000 yards receiving. He holds nearly every NFL record, including 95 touchdown catches, for his position.

One statistic that amazes Falcons coach Mike Smith is Gonzalez's ball security. He hasn't fumbled since Week 16 of 2006. The last time he lost a fumble was in Week 5 of 1999 - a span of 202 straight games and 1,038 receptions.

"It's phenomenal," Smith said. "It says a lot to the way he works in practice. When you watch him, he's playing it like it's a game. He's catching the ball. He's putting it away. He's finishing his catches and running through the end zone. It just speaks volumes."

A storybook ending for Gonzalez would be to win a playoff game for the first time in his career and help the Falcons earn their first Super Bowl title. But for now, he plans to soak in the atmosphere of each day.

"I'm about 95 percent sure (to retire), but I'm enjoying it," he said. "It's kind of a good thing. Because I know this is probably going to be my last camp, I get to enjoy it a little bit more and enjoy the guys a little bit more and really concentrate on just having fun this season. And that means winning games. We've got a great football team."
© Copyright 2015 AccessNorthGa.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Tech beats Southern California in Sun Bowl
Tevin Washington threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score to help Georgia Tech beat Southern California 21-7 on Monday in the Sun Bowl.
5:54PM ( 2 years ago )
Top 10 sports stories of the year: 2012 one for the history books
2012 has been all things to all people in the sports world. The last 12 months have run the gamut of emotions and given fans and spectators much to awe, rue and everything in between.
2:33PM ( 2 years ago )
College Football Hall to break ground in Atlanta
Groundbreaking for the new College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta will be Jan. 28 and the museum is scheduled to open in the fall of 2014.
2:15PM ( 2 years ago )
Sports
Williams, Horford pace Hawks past Indiana
Lou Williams had 21 points and a career-high 12 assists, Al Horford added 20 points and the Atlanta Hawks won their fourth straight, 109-100 over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night.
10:19PM ( 2 years ago )
Gwinnett wallops Greenville, 6-2
Five different Gladiators racked up multiple points, as Gwinnett dominated the Greenville Road Warriors 6-2 Saturday night at the BI-LO Center to move into a tie atop the South Division with Greenville.
10:05PM ( 2 years ago )
Teague leads Hawks past Cavaliers, 102-94
Jeff Teague scored a career-high 27 points and the Atlanta Hawks scored the game's final nine points to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 102-94 on Friday night.
10:26PM ( 2 years ago )
Professional Sports
VIDEO: Gainesville baseball rides chemistry, momentum into championship series
For years, the Gainesville baseball team gazed at the outfield wall at Ivey-Watson Field -- adorned with seven state championship banners -- and wondered when the next might come.
5:01PM ( 12 hours from now )
Buford-Whitewater: Who has the experience in epic AAAA title showdown?
If experience is king in the playoffs, then is perhaps Buford, the No. 1 team in Class AAAA and considered by many to be the class of the entire state -- and ranked in the top 10 nationally -- the underdog in Saturday’s championship series against Whitewater?
1:10PM ( 8 hours from now )
Banged-up Hawks, Cavaliers adjust for Friday's Game 2
While the Atlanta Hawks try to figure out who will guard LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers are just grateful the four-time MVP is still standing.
10:40PM ( 5 hours ago )
Braves take advantage of Smith's pine tar ejection for win
Julio Teheran pitched seven strong innings and the Atlanta Braves took advantage of Milwaukee reliever Will Smith's seventh-inning ejection for allegedly using pine tar in a 10-1 victory Thursday night.
10:38PM ( 5 hours ago )
Baseball: 'Amazing' season not done yet
It has been perhaps the most amazing baseball season in northeast Georgia history. If anyone can show us proof otherwise, we’d like to see it...
2:02PM ( 14 hours ago )