Video: Falcons tight end Gonzalez talks about being selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Video by D. Orlando Ledbetter.

COVER 9@9: Gonzalez hopes to inspire other players of Latino heritage 

GOOD MORNING! AN OFFSEASON EDITION OF THE COVER 9@9 BLOG. 

1. Gonzalez on his heritage. Former Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez is proud of his Latino heritage. 

As a kid, he looked up to Pro Football Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz, who played for the Cincinnati Bengals and was enshrined in Canton, Ohio in 1998.

“He’s somebody that I looked up (to) when I was growing up,” said Gonzalez, who was selected for enshrinement in the Class of 2019 on Saturday.  “There is somebody with a name similar to mine’s has made it. Because football back when I was younger, you didn’t see too many Latinos playing football. It was inspiring.”

Gonzalez, who will be enshrined on August 3, hopes to inspire other Latinos to play football. 

“When I got into the league and saw the impact that I had on the communities around the world really,” Gonzalez said. “I remember going down to Mexico to a place called San Miguel de Allende. A beautiful little town in Mexico.”

On that trip, Gonzalez spotted a kid wearing his jersey. 

“The kid had no clue who I was and I saw his mom and dad over there, and they had no clue who I was,” Gonzalez said. “I went over and introduced myself.

“They gave me hugs and all this stuff. You see the impact that it has. They don’t even have to be fans, it was just that somebody has a name similar to theirs.”

Gonzalez believes that his induction will inspire others to play football. 

“It was always important to me,” Gonzalez said. “It still is important to me to know that they are looking up to me. Hopefully, you’ll see more of them coming up. Really that’s the next big thing, really in the next 15 years you are going to see a lot more Latinos in the NFL.

It’s great.” 

VIDEO: Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez speaks about his days with the Falcons. Video by. D. Orlando Ledbetter.

2. Alford set packing. In what is  not a surprise move , the Falcons released cornerback Robert Alford, he announced on Twitter.

“Thank you Atlanta for (six) incredible seasons,” Alford wrote. “Sucks that it ended on this note. I enjoyed playing in this incredible city. (I’m going to) miss my dawgs, but I’m excited for the next chapter.” 

Alford’s agent later confirmed the release. 

“We thank Robert for all that he brought to the team during his six seasons in Atlanta,” general manager Thomas Dimitroff said. “He was a significate contributor to our defense and we have a great deal of respect for him. We wish Robert all the best going forward.” 

The current regime has been trying to replace Alford since they arrived and drafted former LSU cornerback Jalen Collins in the second round of the 2015 draft. 

Collins was repeatedly suspended and was released by the team in 2017. With Desmond Trufant out with a torn bicep, Collins started in Super Bowl LI. 

The Falcons want a bigger corner who doesn’t commit as many penalties as Alford, who led the team with 12 penalties last season.

The speedy Alford was listed at 5-foot-10 and 186 pounds.  

Cornerback Isaiah Oliver, who was drafted in the second round last season, appears to be heir apparent at right cornerback. He’s 6-0 and 210 pounds. 

Collins, who’s on the Colts’ practice squad, was 6-1 and 203 pounds. 

Alford frustrated the coaching staff because he wouldn’t trust his speed and grabbed too much, which led to the penalties.

Because of his elite speed, he won’t be out of work long. 

3. Kazee vs. Poole for nickel.  Damontae Kazee, who played free safety last season for the injured Ricardo Allen, will get a shot to unseat Brian Poole at nickel back.

Alford, who was drafted in the second round of the 2013 draft, started 88 games and had 10 interceptions. He was set to make $8.5 million in 2019. The Falcons will take a $1.2 million cap hit with Alford’s release. 

The team picked up $7.9 million in cap space with Alford’s release. 

He returned an interception of New England’s Tom Brady for a touchdown in Super Bowl LI. 

3. Pioli endows women’s football coaches and scouts program: Falcons assistant general manager Scott Pioli and his family have endowed a program to help increase the number of women football coaches and scouts. 

“The Women's Sports Foundation made the official announcement of the endowed fund my family and I created in May, 2018 for women football coaches and scouts,” Pioli wrote on LinkedIn. “This is an idea I've had for many years that has finally come to fruition. I'm grateful for everyone at the foundation for their help. Deborah Cross Antoine, Ph.D., Camille Mantelin, Sarah Axelson, Lauren Lubin April, Aleia Naylor - thank you for your efforts and patience.

“I'm also thankful to those with the courage and desire to participate. By letting my family and I assist you, you are helping me honor all of the women in my family and others that have influenced me throughout my life.

"From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required..." 

We all have Time, Treasure or Talent to share.

 Women Leaders in College Sports 

Kansas City Sports Commission & Foundation | WIN for KC

#scouting #football #coaching #womencoaches

4. Yates lands job. Former Falcons quarterback T.J. Yates, a Pope High graduate who played for the team in 2014, was named an offensive assistant coach with the Houston Texans on Tuesday. 

Yates, who played at North Carolina, played in 22 games and made 10 starts in the NFL. 

5. Salary cap primer. The Falcons have made renegotiating Julio Jones’ deal and re-signing Grady Jarrett a priority, already have about $165 million committed to their top 51 players next season.

With Alford’s release the Falcons have about $33 million under the cap. 

6. The Falcons will carry over $1.1 million of their 2018 salary cap space, according to the players union. That’s among the bottom figures for the league.

The CBA allows teams to carry over unused salary cap space from the previous year. 

7. The Falcons could quickly get to $40 million under the cap by restructuring tackle Ryan Schraeder’s deal, which has a $7.7 million cap number for 2019.

8. Here is a rundown of the top 5 cap hits for the Falcons next season (before Jones’ deal is restructured): 

1. Matt Ryan, quarterback: $22.8 million

2. Desmond Trufant, cornerback: $13.9 million
3. Julio Jones, wide receiver: $13.46 million
4. Vic Beasley, defensive end: $12.81 million
5. Jake Matthews, offensive tackle: $11.08 million

9. Free agency starts. Four o’clock March 13 is an important date and time. The NFL free agency and trade period begins and all teams must be under the 2019 salary cap.

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About the Author

D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter
D. Orlando Ledbetter is the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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