Tony Gonzalez contemplating retirement if lockout lasts through season

Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez (R) makes a catch in front of Carolina Panthers linebacker Jon Beason in the first half of their NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in Atlanta, Georgia January 2, 2011. REUTERS/Tami Chappell (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez told NFL Network’s Rich Eisen that if there were no season in 2011, he doesn’t know if he would return in 2012.

“That would be devastating because I don’t want to go out like that,” Gonazalez said Tuesday in a sitdown with Rich Eisen on “NFL Total Access.”

Gonzalez added that he feels great physically, but he doesn’t know how his body would react if it were forced out of football for a year.

“That would be the only reason I would more than likely not come back,” Gonzalez said. “If we miss the whole season and I have to sit out a year, I just think, at 35, sitting out a whole year of football and waiting for it to come back, I just don’t know if my body could. I just want to be smart about it.”

Gonzo has lost a step over the years but thanks to his high football I.Q., his veteran savvy and his nutrition and workout habits, he still plays at an elite level. If the lockout forced him to retire (and I don’t blame him for thinking he couldn’t take a full year off and then come back in 2012), it would be a shame because he’s one of the classiest athletes in professional football. He’s what younger players should aspire to be, not only on the field but off it in terms of taking care of their bodies and conducting their business.

As Gonzalez noted in his interview with Eisen, the Falcons are there. They have a solid core in place and if there’s a season in 2011 they will contend for another division title. Hopefully an agreement can be reached soon and we’ll see Gonzo donning red and black in a couple of months.

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NFL News: Tony Gonzalez 50-50 on playing beyond 2010

ATLANTA - AUGUST 13: Tony Gonzalez  of the Atlanta Falcons prepares to face the Kansas City Chiefs at Georgia Dome on August 13, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez told Alex Marvez of FOX Sports that there’s a 50-50 chance that he’ll retire after the 2010 season.

“It is year to year,” Gonzalez said after a Monday practice at the Falcons’ headquarters. “I could play another three or four years. I know I could … There’s a lot of different factors. Yeah, I’d probably come back but you never know. I’m going to wait.”

“That’s the only thing driving me right now,” said Gonzalez, who hasn’t even won a playoff game since entering the league in 1997 with the Chiefs. “It’s not numbers. It’s not milestones. It’s not money. It’s not glory. It’s not going out trying to be famous and all that stuff. It’s one thing.

“It’s not a secret. People have known it. It’s the reason I got out of Kansas City (last offseason) and the reason I’m here. I don’t want to just go to the playoffs. I want to win the whole thing. I think we’ve got a good chance here.”

This is exactly in line with what Gonzo told me back in early May. It’s hard to blame him that he’s taking things year to year at this point in his career.

Beyond his talent, longevity and class, one thing I’ve come to appreciate about Gonzalez is his honesty. He has never hidden the fact that he wanted out of KC so that he could have a better chance to win a Super Bowl and I believe him when he says that career milestones, money and glory aren’t motivating him right now. The only reason he’s still playing at his age and after all the physical abuse he has taken throughout the years is because he wants to win a Super Bowl.

Gonzalez is a fitness and nutrition buff, so there’s no question that he could play well into his late 30s. Whether or not he wants to keep playing is another topic of discussion but as of right now, he’ll give it hell with the Falcons this year and then re-assess the situation at the end of the season.

Falcons’ Gonzalez to play in 2010

The Falcons’ official website confirmed on Wednesday that Tony Gonzalez will be back in 2010, which is obviously good news for Atlanta. Gonzo caught 83 passes for 867 yards and six touchdowns in the Falcons’ run-heavy offense this season, proving that the 34-year-old can still play at an elite level.

Atlanta traded a second round pick in this year’s draft to acquire Gonzalez from Kansas City last offseason. He’s under contract for the next two seasons but I imagine that the veteran is taking things year by year now. The Falcons would love for him to finish out the remainder of his contract in Atlanta, but who knows what his decision will be after next season.

Due to injuries to Michael Turner and Matt Ryan, the Falcons’ offense wasn’t as explosive as many thought it would be entering the season. Turner also got off to a slow start, forcing offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey to rely more on the passing game instead of beating teams with a balanced approach. That was fine until Ryan started to struggle, then inconsistency became a huge problem for Atlanta. The offense also had to deal with injuries to the receiving corps, as Roddy White was hobbled all season (although he never missed a game) and promising youngster Harry Douglas suffered a knee injury in training camp and never played a snap.

Now that Gonzalez is committed to 2010 and assuming Ryan, Turner, White and Douglas can return to full health, things once again look promising for the Falcons’ offense. Now GM Thomas Dimitroff must concentrate on adding more talent to a young defensive squad so Atlanta can challenge for a playoff spot again next season.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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