Friday, February 7, 2014
Could family nudge Gonzalez to return?
By Vaughn McClure
The variety of topics revealed in Seth Wickersham's ESPN The Magazine piece on Tony Gonzalez -- including the surefire-Hall of Fame-bound tight end's thoughts on Matt Ryan's quarterback status and Gonzalez's apparent desire to be traded to a contender this past season -- created plenty conversation for days, maybe even weeks.
One of the other subjects raised was whether Gonzalez would be enticed to come out of retirement or put it on hold if the Atlanta Falcons are Super Bowl contenders in 2014.
Here is how it was presented in Wickersham's in-depth feature as he followed Gonzalez for the entire 2013 season:
Despite all the drama and disappointment this season, Gonzalez consistently confessed that he isn't so sure about retirement. At dinner with Matt Ryan one night, Gonzalez said, "Maybe, if the team is hot in November, 9-2 or something, I could come back for the last two months."
I posed the exact same scenario to Gonzalez near the end of the season and he said no chance that would happen. Then again, he doesn't have a Super Bowl ring, and one has to wonder if he would truly consider playing again under those circumstances.
Before the final game of this past season, I asked Gonzalez's older brother, Chris, what would happen if a chance of winning that elusive ring presented itself with the Falcons.
"Tony is his own person and his own man, but he's very receptive to certain people's opinions about things," Chris Gonzalez said. "Fortunately, I'm one of those people. I'm frank with him and upfront. But that would be a decision based on how well he's feeling, and I doubt Tony will ever get out of shape. You talk to him at age 60 and he's still going to be in shape.
"What I admire about Tony is that he'll get the family's input . . . When it comes to that point, we'll get together as a family in a roundtable and give an opinion. My opinion at that point will depend on how well he feels. He'll be rested and get out of [training] camp. The thing is, does he really want to come back and do it? You never know. Just because you're 10-0 and have a chance to go to the playoffs doesn't mean anything. How many times has he been on a team that got bounced in the first round?"
There is another factor Chris Gonzalez believes his younger brother should consider under such circumstances.
"Think about his legacy: You don't want to be one of those guys that kept on coming back and all that back and forth," Chris Gonzalez said. "That plays on his emotions as well as the fans. So make up your mind what you're going to do.
"We'll weigh the options out when it comes to that point."
Gonzalez said he and Tony had a discussion about not being overly concerned about winning a Super Bowl.
"We talked about it in-depth: If you're worried about not being able to win a Super Bowl after all you've been able to accomplish in your career, then you have your priorities screwed up, and he agreed," Chris Gonzalez said. "To go down as the best to ever play your position, if unfortunately you didn't win a ring, there are worst things going on in life right now."
Still, it will be interesting to see what happens if the Falcons rebound from their 4-12 implosion and are back in Super Bowl contention next season. Gonzalez will have quite a decision to make, and the Falcons would be better off with him than without. An 18th season probably wouldn't hurt him, especially if it's a shortened one.