Many a Falcoholic has lamented the plight of Tony Gonzalez in recent days. "I feel so bad for him" is a common refrain. He passed on retirement and came back for one final shot at the elusive Lombardi. And it was all for nothing! Or was it?
After the Falcons' post-season hopes got squashed like Dave's morning can of Steel Reserve, Thomas Dimitroff and company were accused of gross disrespect when they didn't farm out Gonzo's services for the rest of the year. "Give him a chance," they said. But alas, keeping him around had a purpose. In particular, it's allowed him to continue to set an example for his teammates.
The Falcons staff asked Gonzalez in the third quarter if he wanted to come out of Sunday's game at Tampa Bay, since the Buccaneers held a commanding lead. He refused. Gonzalez played 48 of 71 offensive snaps (68 percent) and was on the field deep into the fourth quarter.
"The game was kind of over by then, but it's like `Nah, I'm going to go out there.' I could have shut it down easily,'' Gonzalez said.
In short, he's showing us how it's done. But it's not just that he's a leader on this year's team. It's that, without a doubt, his example will have a lasting effect. When Levine Toilolo is a seasoned vet with a couple Falcons Super Bowl rings weighing down his right hand, he will remember Gonzo. He will remember Gonzo's professionalism, work ethic, willingness to play through injury, and general awesomeness. In my mind, that's more valuable than the mediocre draft pick Kansas City was offering.