Tony Gonzalez excited about return to Kansas City
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Tony Gonzalez's phone blew up as soon as the NFL schedule came out.
There it was, for everyone to see — the very first game of what he expects will be his final season.
Gonzo is going home.
The likely Hall of Famer, one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history, spent the first 12 years of his record-breaking career with the Kansas City Chiefs. Come Sunday, Gonzalez will be lining up at Arrowhead Stadium as an opponent, trying to lead his current team, the Atlanta Falcons, to a victory over the franchise where he made his name.
But there will always be a big part of him in Kansas City.
"I guess it all worked out," Gonzalez said.
Indeed, there's a symmetry to the schedule. He's already said this, his 16th season, will likely be his last. It's only appropriate that Gonzalez gets a proper send-off from those who cheered him for so long but didn't really have a chance to say goodbye when he was dealt to the Falcons in 2009.
"Obviously, I've been thinking about it," Gonzalez said Wednesday. "When the schedule first came out, obviously, it popped out. Right then and there, my phone lit up with everybody calling me: my family, people that I'm still friends with from the organization, and the friends I made while I was up in Kansas City. It's going to be special."
And, he conceded, "a little weird." Those guys in the home locker room are now the ones he's trying to beat. He'll be the one wearing a visiting uniform.
Gonzalez has admittedly spent a lot of time reminiscing about his time with the Chiefs, focusing on the good times. He remembered his first coach, Marty Schottenheimer. He thought about the explosive 2003 team, coached by Dick Vermeil, which won the AFC West and scored more points than any team in the league.
"I've been lucky enough to accumulate a bunch of really, really good memories," Gonzalez said. "It's funny, because these are the things you actually think about, things I thought about when I saw the schedule, and just looking back on my career there, it was all really memorable. Obviously, the losing seasons, you try to forget about those. But winning, that's what really popped out to me. It was just a great experience out there."
The only thing missing from Gonzalez's record is a playoff victory. Not even one. That's largely the reason he was traded by the Chiefs, who were about to go through another major rebuilding job when they agreed to deal their most notable player to a franchise on the way up.
Still, even though the Falcons have made the playoffs the last two years, Gonzalez's postseason drought has carried on. Atlanta was one-and-done both times, adding an extra bit of urgency to this season. He decided to come back for one more try.
"That was another reason that went into me coming back for this year," Gonzalez said. "That's the goal. That's my 'why' for this year. That's the reason you go out there and put it all on the line."
He truly believes this is the team that can give him not only his first playoff win, but a Super Bowl ring to end his career on.
"We've got a really good football team, there's no doubt about that," Gonzalez said. "It's not just false chatter. We've got a really, really good team from top to bottom, offensively and defensively. I realize that we have an opportunity to go to the playoffs, win a playoff game, and that's what I want. That's why I've been playing this game my whole career, to hopefully get a chance at that Super Bowl. I feel like we've got as good a chance as anybody."
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