Very few players say goodbye to the NFL easily and cleanly. That's true of the greats and the never-weres. You spend your life dedicated to the game, and before you hit your 40th or even 30th birthday, the game is done with you.
It won't be different for Tony Gonzalez. This is what he told Peter King the other day:
"I’m not naïve, and I’ve spoken to enough players who have retired that I know I’m going to miss it. It’s gonna be like a part of me that is dying, honestly. I’m never ever going to be able to play football again for a living. So I don’t have any regrets."
How Gonzalez grapples with the end of his career is his business, but he's got a bright future in broadcasting if he wants it. How do we say goodbye as fans, though?
Not easily, either. He has over 400 receptions, 4,000 yards and 35 touchdowns in a Falcons uniform over his five seasons here. He was involved in a playoff triumph against the Seahawks and was one of the team's best players during one of the best runs in franchise history. Throughout his tenure, he was nothing but a class act and a productive player, and even at the end when there's nothing to be lost by speaking his mind, he won't say anything negative about this year except that "losing sucks."
He wasn't just easy to root for. It was, in my mind, impossible to root against him. And we only have one more shot to cheer him on.
This game doesn't matter much for Falcons fans outside of Gonzalez. It is, however, the last chance to see the best tight end in NFL history ply his craft for our favorite football team.
Watch. We have to say goodbye tomorrow.