FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez put off retirement for one more year with a single goal in mind: winning his first Super Bowl ring.
But the Falcons are mired in a three-game losing streak and ravaged by injuries, so it seems more and more likely that Gonzalez's farewell season will wind up being a real bummer.
Just don't go telling him that.
"As far as I'm concerned," Gonzalez said Thursday, "we're still in it."
Looking at the bleak situation through the rosiest of glasses, the future Hall of Famer insisted he has no regrets about tacking on another season to his already brilliant career, and he flatly denied any interest in being traded to a contender — with his previous team, the Kansas City Chiefs, being an obvious source of speculation.
"This is the team I came back for. These are the guys I came back to play with," Gonzalez said, looking around the Falcons locker room. "I'm enjoying myself: win, lose or draw. Obviously, I would rather win. It makes it a lot more fun. But there's no way I would even think about jumping ship, because I love playing for this team and I love playing for this city."
Gonzalez and the Falcons (1-4) began the year with a Super Bowl-or-bust mindset, but a devastating string of injuries have helped send them spiraling to their worst losing streak since 2007.
Four starters have already gone down with season-ending injuries, including Pro Bowl receiver Julio Jones. Other key players have missed extensive time, including defensive leader Sean Weatherspoon and running back Steven Jackson. Still more are slowed by nagging ailments, most notably star receiver Roddy White.
But Gonzalez refuses to believe that all hope is lost.
"I'm not there yet," he said. "Not even close."
The Falcons, who host winless Tampa Bay on Sunday, are coming off a bye week that gave everyone a chance to assess what they must do to turn things around. It also provided ample time for speculation about whether Gonzalez would really want to stick things out if the losing persisted, especially when the Chiefs are off to an 6-0 start.
He spent a dozen years in Kansas City before signing off on a trade to Atlanta in 2009. Last season, Gonzalez finally got his first playoff win and nearly made it to the Super Bowl, the Falcons coming up 10 yards short of beating San Francisco in the NFC championship game. The thrilling ride prompted a change on heart on his oft-stated plans to retire, luring him back for a 17th season.
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