Gonzalez: Retirement ‘a possibility'

Tony Gonzalez sounded like he intends to return for his 15th NFL season. However, the Falcons tight end acknowledged he may have played his last game Saturday in the team's divisional playoff loss to Green Bay.

"It's always a possibility," Gonzalez said. "Year 15 is a long time."

In his career's twilight and in perhaps his last best shot at his first Super Bowl, the future hall of famer was dealt an exceedingly familiar gut punch at the Georgia Dome. For the third time in as many attempts, Gonzalez lost with a team that was seeded first or second in its opening playoff game. Gonzalez, who accepted a 2009 trade from Kansas City to the Falcons in hopes of reaching the Super Bowl, fell to 0-4 overall in his career in the postseason.

At game's end, as his teammates trudged off the sideline to congratulate the Packers, Gonzalez paused a moment. Sitting on the seatback with his feet on the bench, he looked into the distance.

"Here we go again," is what the 11-time Pro Bowl tight end said he was thinking.

With the Kansas City Chiefs, Gonzalez twice endured losses with clubs that, like the Falcons, went 13-3 and earned byes in the wild-card round.

"I feel just as down just as devastated as I did last time," Gonzalez said. "It doesn't make a difference that it's towards the end of my career. It's in my mind, don't get me wrong, but they all hurt."

Running back Michael Turner has tasted the same pain. In 2006, Turner's San Diego Chargers won the AFC's No. 1 seed with a 14-2 record, then lost their divisional playoff to New England.

"A playoff loss is a playoff loss no matter what seed you are, but you don't want to squander away a No. 1 seed," Turner said.

If it proves to be Gonzalez' last, he went out with his typical professionalism. Even as the Packers ran the score to 42-14 with 2:41 left in the third quarter, Gonzalez kept up his routine of catching passes on the sideline from backup quarterback Chris Redman to stay sharp.

On the ensuing series, Gonzalez injured his ankle making his only catch of the night. For the next several minutes, Gonzalez walked and ran on the sideline, trying to loosen up his right ankle to get back into a game that was well past decided. He made it back for the Falcons' last two possessions.

Said Gonzalez, "I didn't want to let my team down."

Gonzalez has one year left on his contract, and the team would like him to return. Gonzalez, who turns 35 in February, will take time to get away from football and make a decision later. If he leaves the game now, it won't be because he isn't playing at a top level. He caught 70 passes, made the Pro Bowl and started all 16 games for the 11th time in his 14 seasons. Following the game, he raved about the team's core and guaranteed that the Falcons will be one of the NFL's glamour teams over the next five or six years.

"That's definitely going to weigh into my decision whether or not I come back," he said.