In the aftermath of the Falcons’ season-ending loss to the 49ers on Sunday in the NFC Championship game, tight end Tony Gonzalez sounded as if he has played his final NFL game.
The Falcons are still holding out hope that Gonzalez will hold off on retirement and return for a 17th season. Teammate Sean Weatherspoon said he thinks Gonzalez will come back, and coach Mike Smith said he still hopes Gonzalez will change his mind.
“I’m hoping for the 5 percent,” Smith said, referring to Gonzalez’s season-long assertion that he’s 95 percent certain he will retire. “Tony handled this very well all season long. I don’t think he’s deviated from that.
“Tony and I will have a conversation over the next couple of weeks. This is a tough day, and the next couple of days are tough with the finality. I don’t think we really need to be discussing anything like that (yet).”
Gonzalez, 36, was voted to the Pro Bowl for the 13th time. He said he probably won’t play in the all-star game Jan. 27 in Hawaii because he wants his last game to be “for a team I love and respect.”
Gonzalez is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent, but said that if he does return to play, it would be for the Falcons.
“I think he’s coming back,” Weatherspoon said. “I think if we had a bad year, he wouldn’t come back. But we had a great year, so I think we are right there.”
Gonzalez ranks second all-time in the NFL in receptions (1,242), seventh in receiving yards (14,268) and 18th in touchdowns (103). Those totals are records for his position.