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No more 2nd chances for Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez

By PAUL NEWBERRY, AP Sports Writer Published: January 11, 2013

He won't be making any definite plans before his final game, as Lewis did with the Ravens; in fact, there's unlikely to be any sort of announcement right after the season, either.

“It will probably be well into the offseason,” Gonzalez revealed Thursday, about as definitive as he's been on how this will all play out. “I want to make sure that I make the right decision.”

He pauses and considers his next words carefully.

“I'm not going to play that game with the media, and I'm really not going to play that game with my team,” Gonzalez said. “So, we'll see.”

The chance to get out while still in reasonably good health is no small consideration, especially with the news Thursday that former NFL star Junior Seau had a degenerative brain disease often linked with repeated blows to the head when he killed himself with a gunshot to the chest last year.

Gonzalez said he actually feels as good as he has in years, a testament to the Falcons giving him plenty of days off from practice and allowing him to essentially run his own workout program. He's got a way of conveying that message to tight ends coach Chris Scelfo.

“I always tell him, `Do you want it today or do you want in on Sunday?“' Gonzalez said. “He always tells me, `I want it on Sunday.' So, I've been rested throughout the season. But I've just been lucky, too. I haven't taken any hard hits or had any serious injuries.”

Luck doesn't have all that much to do with it.

Going back to his college days, when he also played basketball at the University of California, he learned to put his hoop skills to use on the gridiron. No one is better at going up to pull down high throws. No one is better at using his body to shield defenders away from the ball. Not one is better at giving the slightest little twitch to get away from the full force of a blow.

“He has a very good knack of using his body,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “That's his basketball background in terms of trying to go up and get rebounds and box out.”

This is the fourth time Gonzalez has been on a 13-win team heading into the playoffs. Just two years ago, the Falcons were in the exact same position as they are now, needing two wins at home to reach the Super Bowl. Instead, they were blown out in the divisional round by Green Bay, 48-21.

A first-round loss to the Giants in last year's playoffs left Gonzalez at 0-for-5 in the postseason.

He believes this is his best chance yet to finally end the drought, playing on a tight-knit team with loads of talent.

And, when he's all alone and his mind wanders a bit, he'll envision what it would be like to be in the middle of the field with confetti falling all around in his final game.

To not only be a playoff winner, but to be a champion.

“Maybe if we had won the Super Bowl in my first year,” he said, sounding perpetually hopeful, “it wouldn't have been as sweet doing it in my last year.”

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