FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Tony Gonzalez has no intention of pulling a Ray Lewis before retirement.
There won’t any lining up with the defense for the final play. Certainly there won’t be anything resembling the Baltimore linebacker’s trademark dance.
You don’t want to see me dance, Gonzalez joked Thursday. That’s not a pretty thing. Trust me.
While his dance skills may need some work, Gonzalez has hit just about every mark during his 16 years in the NFL.
All but one, that is.
As hard as it seems to believe, given his lengthy list of accomplishments while becoming perhaps the greatest tight end in football history, Gonzalez has never won a playoff game.
I’m not going to lie to you, he said. I really, really, really want to win this game.
If the 36-year-old Gonzalez is to be believed, he’s down to his final chance. The Atlanta tight end has maintained all year that retirement is 95 percent certain after the final game.
So, if he doesn’t get it done Sunday, when the top-seeded Falcons (13-3) play host to the Seattle Seahawks (12-5) in an NFC divisional game, there likely won’t be a chance for a do-over.
For me, obviously, this could be it, Gonzalez said. There is no tomorrow. There is no saying, We’ll get ’em next year.’ It’s about going out there and trying to finish on the right note.
He has already done more than enough to start writing his speech for Canton. No tight end in NFL history has more receptions (1,242), receiving yards (14,268), touchdown catches (103), 100-yard games (30), Pro Bowl appearances (12) and 1,000-yard seasons (four).
Even more remarkable, Gonzalez shows no signs of slowing down.
This season, he led the Falcons with 93 receptions. He totaled 930 yards receiving, his best output since being traded from Kansas City to the Falcons four years ago, eclipsed only by his 1,000-yard seasons with the Chiefs.
Fanatical about his workout program and always on the lookout for any new trend or discovery that might help him stay in peak physical condition, Gonzalez might not be quite as fast as when he entered the league with the Chiefs in 1997. But no one is more in tune with his body, which is why quarterback Matt Ryan will always look for No. 88 when everyone else is covered.
I tell him he’s old all the time, so I guess his age does cross my mind every now and then, Ryan, 27, said with a smile. But he certainly doesn’t play that way. He keeps himself in perfect shape, takes care of himself as well as anybody. That’s why I keep telling him he could play a couple of more years.
The Falcons have made it clear they would love for Gonzalez to put off retirement for at least one more season, and he’s left a crack open to a possible return.