FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez is trying to savour every moment as his career is winding down.
“What was it: The NFL means Not For Long? And I’ve been able to play 17 years,” Gonzalez said on Wednesday. “Nobody has to ever feel sorry for me. I’ve gotten everything that I wanted out of this league, but I know it’s time for it to end for me and I’m going to enjoy it.” Despite a toe injury that has limited him in practice, Gonzalez will be in the starting lineup when the Falcons face Washington on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
“Two 3-10 teams going against each other,” Gonzalez said. “Who would have thought that, especially after last year with both (teams) going to the playoffs? But the NFL is funny like that. That’s how it goes.” With the Falcons ending up just short of the Super Bowl last season, they coaxed Gonzalez out of retirement for one more shot at the Lombardi Trophy. Things quickly went sideways for the team.
Gonzalez is dealing with the reality of his career ending without ever making it to the Super Bowl.
“Memories,” Gonzalez said. “Like my drive in every morning. I live down in Buckhead. When I come in, it’s a far drive. Once you get out off freeway 85 and onto 985, it’s pretty. It’s something that I kind of never really noticed before until this year.” Gonzalez, 37, is still productive. He has 65 catches for 678 yards and six touchdowns this season. He wants the Falcons to close out the season in strong fashion.
“From the atmosphere around here, you wouldn’t think this is a three-win team,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s good or bad. Spirits are high and each time that we get a chance to go out there, guys are going to play hard.” This will be Gonzalez’ next-to-last game at the Georgia Dome. He’ll get a trip to his home state of California for his last Monday Night Football game at San Francisco on Dec. 23 and then wrap things up back at the Dome against Carolina.
“We have three games left to go out there and do the best that we can do,” Gonzalez said. “Obviously, individually, these are the last three games of my career. I’m really trying to take advantage of them and enjoy as much of it as I can.”
Koetter corner: Gonzalez believes it’s good for the Falcons’ future that offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter didn’t get the Boise State head coaching job this week.
“It’s great for this team, for Matt and for this offense,” Gonzalez said. “I really do believe the future is bright around here. There is definitely a lot to be learned from a season like this. … It’s good to have him back just because he’s the captain, he’s the guy who drives the ship for us.”
Tackling machine: Rookie linebacker Paul Worrilow went over the 100-tackle mark with his 12 tackles against Green Bay last Sunday.
He’s second on the team with 109 tackles, according to the coaches’ film review stats.
“You want to be productive,” Worrilow said. “I have a high motor. I’m going to finish every play. At inside linebacker, you have to finish to the ball, take on blocks, fill your assignment and then ultimately finish on the ball because that’s your job.” He’s looking forward to facing Washington running back Alfred Morris, who’s rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season.
“He’s a strong runner, kind of similar to what we had last week,” Worrilow said, referring to Green Bay’s Eddie Lacy. “Maybe not size-wise, but he does a great job on contact. … We’ll have to stress wrapping up and driving through him.”
Coffman honored: Paul Coffman, who played for the Green Bay Packers (1978-1985) and is the father of Falcons tight end Chase Coffman, was an honorary captain for the game in Lambeau Field.
“I think they do that at every home game for the old guys,” Coffman said. “My whole family went up there and went to the game. That was fun. They love him up there in Green Bay. Everybody still knows him.”
More RG3 fallout: The father benched Robert Griffin III. The son would rather have him on the field.
Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said Thursday he wasn’t consulted on coach Mike Shanahan’s decision to sit Griffin against the Falcons on Sunday, adding that he finds it “a little disappointing” that the franchise quarterback won’t be playing for the rest of the season.
“If it was about really football, I think you would talk to the offensive coordinator,” Kyle Shanahan said. “But the decision doesn’t have to do with football, it has to do with the future of an organization. That’s out of my realm.”