Atlanta Falcons future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez went into the NFC Championship game thinking that he may retire after the 2012 season. He won his first playoff game of his career the week before, beating the Seahawks in the final seconds, which capped off an incredible 16-year career. However, Gonzalez is still undecided on whether or not he's going to call it quits, or return for one more shot at a Super Bowl in 2013, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jeff Schultz.
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Gonzalez has reportedly told head coach Mike Smith that he wanted to take some time before he made his decision, and according to Schultz, Smith's interpretation of "some time" was three-to-six weeks.
Prior to the NFC Championship game, reports surfaced that Gonzalez was 97 percent sure that he was going to call it a career after the 2012 season, but general manager Thomas Dimitroff believes that after Gonzalez got to taste his first-ever playoff victory and after being only one game and just four points away from going to the Super Bowl, the tight end may wonder if he's really content with ending his career:
"He said it was 95 percent [he would retire], then 97 percent," Dimitroff said. "But after you win a playoff game and see how close you were to being in a Super Bowl, it's only natural to wonder if you're going to be content."
If Gonzalez does return, the Falcons wouldn't have to worry about the tight end position for the upcoming season and they could focus on some of the other holes on the roster. Even if he does retire, though, replacing a tight end like Gonzalez wouldn't be easy to do.
In his 16th season, Gonzalez was still putting up extremely impressive numbers. He finished the year with 93 receptions for 930 yards and eight touchdowns. Over his career, he's caught 1,242 passes for 14,268 yards and 103 touchdowns. He ranks at No. 7 in all-time receiving yards in the NFL, which is the highest for a tight end. The only active player with more career receiving yards than Gonzalez is Randy Moss.
Gonzalez also caught the 19-yard pass from Matt Ryan in their game against the Seattle Seahawks that set up Matt Bryant for the game-winning 49-yard field goal, which pushed the Falcons past the Seahawks and into the NFC Championship game.
Dimitroff seems confident that he'll be seeing Gonzalez on the field in a Falcons uniform in 2013, though. He doesn't think a player of his caliber, who has only one playoff win, can just walk away from the game that has defined their entire life.
"A guy who is 36 catching 100-plus balls (including the postseason), it just doesn’t seem like it’s time for him to move on," Dimitroff said, per ESPN.com.
Dimitroff also believes, however, that a decision isn't going to come overnight and that Gonzalez will likely wrestle with the choice on whether to retire or stay with the Falcons throughout the majority of the offseason:
"Tony’s a man and he’s got to make his own decision," Dimitroff said. "Suffice it to say that it’s not going to be an easy decision for him one way or another because he knows that he still has fuel in the tank and it’s very legitimate fuel in the tank."
Should Gonzalez decide to hang up his cleats, he will likely go down as the greatest tight end to every play professional football. One more year, and a possible Super Bowl ring couldn't hurt, though.