Gonzalez knew he had to change priorities — and teams

(Curtis Compton/compton@ajc.com)

After more than 12 seasons, Tony Gonzalez has his eyes on something other than stats.

He is in a profession where success can be defined in different ways. Money buys luxury. Records build legacy. But championships sit at a higher elevation. They don’t come with a platinum card or a pile of numbers.

“I’ve definitely learned,” Tony Gonzalez said the other day. “You evolve as a person. When you first come into the league, you’re thinking, ‘When I’m done with this game, I want people to look back and say I was one of the greatest. But then you start achieving stuff and you’re not winning. The stats move to the back burner the longer you play. You know the end is coming. I feel like I’m on borrowed time right now.”

It’s week two of season 13, and possibly the greatest tight end in NFL history can’t remember the last time he felt this good. In his Falcons’ debut against Miami last Sunday, Gonzalez caught one touchdown pass and set up another score with a finger-tip grab catch at the Dolphins’ one-yard-line. But what stands out to him most?

“Just being in the locker room after the game,” he said. “Just being on a winning team.”

Everybody says this stuff. Not everybody means it. But not everybody is 33 and owns so many records but zero playoff wins.

Gonzalez has spoken in the past about his desire to get out of Kansas City. A trail of losing seasons led to an ill-fated trade request last year. But this week, five months after the Chiefs finally moved him for a draft pick, he expounded on his level of frustration in Kansas City. Maybe his perspective grew in the last few weeks. While the Falcons opened the season with a win, Kansas City lost to Baltimore and made news by firing offensive coordinator Chan Gailey a week before the game.

“Unique,” Gonzalez said only when the Chiefs’ firing was mentioned.

But he wasn’t brief about much else.

“It’s not banging on the franchise — reality is reality, and we weren’t very good,” he said. “That gets old. It was tough. Frustrating. It makes you [ticked] off. It was like an emotional roller coaster. You learn a lot about yourself. I think I learned more about myself in the past year than I had in the previous five years. Just knowing what I’m capable of handling. When you put your heart and soul into something and it doesn’t go the way you want it to, it hurts. It grinds on you. It affects you. You get to see what you’re made of and how you react. You can become a jerk. Your family might not want to be around you. But for the most part, it helped me grow.”

After one game as a Falcon, Gonzalez has one touchdown and one win. It wasn’t that balanced in Kansas City. There was a time when the Chiefs were one of the league’s most stable franchises. But they lost 26 games in the last two years. Gonzalez had more than twice as many touchdowns (15) as the team had wins (six) in 2007 and 2008.

It was in the midst of last year’s 2-14 record that the losing got to be more than he could handle. “I can’t ever remember being in such a fog, where I was forcing myself just to work as hard as I could.”

So he asked to be traded, a rarity during the season for an NFL player. Teams called. Green Bay and Philadelphia were interested. But a deal never materialized, and because everybody knew of the trade request, Gonzalez had to deal with the fallout. Some branded him as selfish. Or disloyal. Or both.

“It wasn’t about abandoning my teammates,” he said. “It was about being realistic and saying, ‘My window is closing.’”

After the trade deadline passed, he met with his teammates, asking coaches to leave the room. He explained his side. “They all understood,” he said.

He laughed, adding, “Hey, it wasn’t just me who felt that way. I didn’t have the monopoly on feeling bad.”

That’s in the past now. Gonzalez said it wasn’t long after the Falcons acquired him when he had a dream.

“I was standing on the field and confetti was coming down,” he said.

Nothing too difficult there to interpret.

WANT TO RELIVE GONZALEZ’ FIRST GAME AS A FALCON? JUST CLICK PLAY

50 comments Add your comment

sportaree

September 18th, 2009
8:17 pm

I will PRAY Tony,that your dream may come true.

Reality Time

September 18th, 2009
8:26 pm

Sportaree, I second that.

DamYankee

September 18th, 2009
8:40 pm

Thanks for the highlight reel, hopefully just the beginning. Ryan may get a man-crush.

doyle, winder

September 18th, 2009
8:46 pm

Reality, I 3rd that!!!!!!!!!!!

Kane337

September 18th, 2009
8:48 pm

I hope his dream comes true as well. That would be absolutely amazing for us Falcons fans.

JTH

September 18th, 2009
8:56 pm

If the defense holds up picking up Tony G will be the deciding factor in a Falcons Super Bowl win.

Go Falcons

Eric

September 18th, 2009
9:09 pm

I would love for TG’s dream to come true, but being a Falcon fan as long as I have, I’m always afraid that the other shoe is about to drop….

BugKiller

September 18th, 2009
9:11 pm

If Tony wins a Championship this year with this team, he, like Fred McGriff will NEVER have to buy a drink in this championship-starved town again.

McGriff. Gonzalez.

Three guys in very similar situations. One is a lock for his HOF, and the other guy, in light of the steroids done in his era so his numbers look MUCH better, should be.

I’m pulling for Tony Gonzalez to become a Hero of Atlanta Sports (a very short list, I know).

GTIronman

September 18th, 2009
9:29 pm

TonyG is going to rock, but he looked slow against the Fins. Gotta love the reads and hands, though.

Reid Adair

September 18th, 2009
9:47 pm

Tony Gonzalez is a class act. I don’t think anyone could blame him for wanting to play for a winning team and make a playoff run after all of these years. Adding him to the Falcons’ offense was a great move.

Barkin'Dog

September 18th, 2009
9:48 pm

If ever there was an unselfish, team player who deserves success, it’s Tony. Unlike many of those ‘me’ characters this past decade, Tony kept quietly to himself after the trade (except when interviewed, and that was all humility and class), and as usual plans to show his appreciation and intentions through his actions. This is going to be exciting for MANY!! I can’t wait to see him this year in the playoffs… and I think most of the players in the NFL will 2nd that! Go Tony! Go Falcons!!

"Chef" Tim Dix

September 18th, 2009
9:49 pm

Borrowed time?

I say just in time.

STL Falcon

September 18th, 2009
10:25 pm

And what a great move by Dimitroff. We lose the 2nd round pick this year, but compensatory picks will more than make up for it – especially with TD’s ability to draft late – Bierman, Sidbury.

Go Falcons!

GT Falcon

September 18th, 2009
10:37 pm

Can’t WAIT for Sunday. Nothing like some NFL to heal your college football wounds. Go BIRDS!!!!

Ed-Covington

September 18th, 2009
11:57 pm

Bugkiller:

Who are the THREE guys?

Story on ESPN the other day about new NFL coaches, one segment about how the new coach in KC took away TG’s parking space next to the front door of the KC facility. Players had had a silent auction for the parkig spaces and donated the proceeds to charity. Gonzales had paid $12,000 for his spot, but the coach reassigned him anyway. What a petty thing to do in the interest of “team equality”.

Ed-Covington

September 18th, 2009
11:57 pm

Starring Jack Webb as the terse Sergeant Joe Friday

September 19th, 2009
12:09 am

Dream eliminated by Shock from WNBA Playoffs.
Forget about football.
This is terrible news.

Falconface

September 19th, 2009
12:34 am

It feels strange having a team that you know is going to win more than lose. I only wish we could have picked TG up sooner. Let’s make his legacy a Falcon one. Let’s do the impossible and establish a Falcon dynasty. Go Falcons!!!!

Falconface

September 19th, 2009
12:34 am

It feels strange having a team that you know is going to win more than lose. I only wish we could have picked TG up sooner. Let’s make his legacy a Falcon one. Let’s do the impossible and establish a Falcon dynasty. Go Falcons!!!!

TheManMike

September 19th, 2009
1:21 am

Damn good blog Jeff. Excellent read. It really is nice to hear someone actually speak honestly – its refreshing. It’s ironic how much these two (Falcons/TG) actually needed each other; it will be kick arse to watch.

Go Birds!

Chris

September 19th, 2009
8:13 am

Gonzalez may have been the pickup that makes the difference in just making the playoffs, and being a serious contender to win it all. The defense doesn’t have to be the best in the NFL, if they can just be middle of the pack……Gonzalez being aquired made this one of the top 5 offenses in the league. ALL that means Gonzalez dream of winning a playoff game and getting a chance to play in a Super Bowl may not be that far off.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

September 19th, 2009
8:17 am

As a Falcon fan it is so hard to wrap my arms around the idea that we are a legitimate contender. With the addition of Gonzalez it seems like that is the final piece, but I keep waiting for June Jones to show up w/ Mouse Davis or something? Can this franchise really be this good?

"Chef" Tim Dix

September 19th, 2009
8:48 am

After the steam rollin’ Sunday, naysayer’s stories will include, “It was just the Panthers”.

This journey has predetermined opponents, ye of little faith.

DePlane

September 19th, 2009
8:54 am

TG…simply amazing. No one deserves a shot at a Championship more than this man.
I hope he realizes his dream with the Falcons. What a weapon for MR2.

MightyQuinn

September 19th, 2009
9:01 am

I’m going to the game tomorrow and have to replace my Brooking jersey (yeah, go ahead and insert punch line….HERE). Been debating about who to choose. Might have to be Tony G. My new fav Falcon.

MightyQuinn

September 19th, 2009
9:03 am

And think about this; how long has it been since a player wanted to come to the Falcons so they can WIN? Has anyone EVER said that? Shows how far we’ve come. That said, I’m still holding my breath til we get to nine wins this year.

bali smith

September 19th, 2009
9:05 am

Enter yi was able to attend the game tnis past sund tony g was great ,but what impressed thme the most was the way the falcons played as a team great gameour comments here

Kurt

September 19th, 2009
9:38 am

I agree bali, but dude, two words……..PROOF READ.

Bubba

September 19th, 2009
10:35 am

The way I see it, Tony may not win the bling that says he’s a world champion. He might win something better, though: He might be known as The Man Who Broke the Falcons’ Losing Streak curse. Ask Sid Bream and Francisco Cabrera how that feels.

TRUTH

September 19th, 2009
12:43 pm

Tony Gonzales,

We share the dream ! ! ! Super Bowl BABY !!!!!! That dream WILL come true !!!!

Gray Mule

September 19th, 2009
12:46 pm

Terrible Friday – - High School Football – My team stomped on. The Braves roll over and play dead for the Phillies. The Dream eliminated.

Panthers, smarting from a season opener which made them look really bad and like any sore tailed cat, will bight and scratch anyone and anything in sight. Sure hope my Falcons are ready.

Can we keep enough pressure on their QB to prevent those long passes from burning us? Can the Kitty Kats stop Turner the Burner and his sidekick, Norwood?

Man, I so glad we have our “new” tight end because he may be the key to whether or not the Falcons open the season 2-0 or we fall prey to the Panthers.

Hillbilly Deluxe

September 19th, 2009
12:50 pm

A player with his attitude can influence the team as much off the field as he does on it. His is a wisdom born of experience and the fact he produces on the field will make the younger players likely to soak up his message.

DJ

September 19th, 2009
1:38 pm

One thing missing from Tony’s shoe-in – the championship. The ring gets you in.

Lest I remind last time around Delhomme put up 300+, S Smith 150+, DWilliams 100+ and the score was 45-28. Fantasy guys, the stats don’t matter; its the game.

Jeff

September 19th, 2009
3:07 pm

I think tony would be a good pick-up with any teams that wanted him.He will be in the hall of fame soon and is one of the greatest tight-end to ever play that position.The game will be a hard hitting game and the teams that plays better defensively will win the game.Also with tony on the field take pressure off of the falcons WR’s.We already know defense win games and CHAMPIONSHIP in any or almost every sport.I have no favorite to chose from even-though I am from Georgia.Cowboys my team but I think the ravens will be in the Superbowl and I don’t know about the NFC.The NFC this year has the best overall teams and it up for grabs who I think will make it to the big one on that side.People this week is some good games that can go either way.Peace!

Bad News

September 19th, 2009
3:39 pm

Tony G will never see his dream come true playing with “noodle arm, one and done” Matt Ryan. Tony would have a better chance of winning a playoff game in KC!

Panthers 31

Falcons 10

jay

September 19th, 2009
3:41 pm

Enter your comments here
i have a fantasy football question for you falcons fans since i am littered with atlanta players on my roster i caught this article about the greatest TE of all time(and i hope he gets you far in to the playoffs…i see playoff wins this year and a SB run within 2-3 yrs for y’all)
question, is norwood returning kicks for you this weekend?? i cant find out.

fred

September 19th, 2009
3:45 pm

Enter your comments here
whoever the panthers fan above is, i suggest you look at turnover jake before criticizing the rookie of the year who will kick your behind tomorrow. 45-24. delhomme has 3 int and is benched for feely who finds steve smith late and triggers a qb controversy in kitty kat land.

Jeff Schultz

September 19th, 2009
3:55 pm

Bugkiller – I would like to do something where I wouldn’t have to buy a drink ever again. A guy can dream.

GTIronman – He doesn’t really need blazing speed for what he does. Just needs to get open and catch the ball. I also recall a couple of pretty nice moves after the catch for the TD (click the video highlights above).

TheManMike – Thanks.

Reality Bites

September 19th, 2009
5:17 pm

I hate to burst everyone’s bubble, but I think Matt has been figured out.

Think I’m wrong? Well flash back to the last 4 games of the regular season in 2008, where he barely averaged 200 yards per game and he had 5 interceptions, 2 touch downs, 3 fumbles.

Then in the playoffs, he had 2 interceptions and a safety.

Teams were just waiting to get film on him and it didn’t take long before teams changed their schemes and figured out his arm strength is not very good. So what did they do?

They decided to attack Michael Turn and use press coverage on Matt, teams started to realize, if you stop Michael Turner, then you stop the Falcons offense.

Think I’m not right? Well fast forward to the preseason and the first game of the season. Turner was stuffed and the offense was struggling, and Matt had Roddy open deep several times and could not deliver him the ball.

A lot of you were blaming Roddy, but it’s Matt’s responsibility to deliver the ball. Even the touch down to Tony was not accurate and Tony had to stretch ackwardly for it and all the yards were after the catch. The pass actually only went about 5 yards.

We were lucky Pennington was not able to stretch the field and in doing so the wildcat didn’t stand a chance.

Matt had a productive 12 games last season, but now he will continue to struggle because he can’t throw deep.

JJFalcon4Life

September 19th, 2009
5:43 pm

I seem to recall the first game of last year where Matt put the ball right on Mike Jenkins about 30 yds downfield. That’s about all the distance he’s going to need once the receiver gets a lead.

super bowl shuffle

September 19th, 2009
6:19 pm

Is it Sunday yet? I’m going to headbutt Jeff and his friends every hour, on the hour, until gametime.

Not a bad way to kill time, but hopefully not my pal Jeff.

Jeff Schultz

September 19th, 2009
7:16 pm

Reality Bites — Kinda early to conclude that defenses have caught up with Ryan. I attributed his slide last year to fatigue, and fact is in playoffs you play better defenses and better coaches. Just my opinion.

Super Bowl Shuffle — Tell you what, practice on the wall for about an hour and then get meet me at Starbucks. I’ll be the guy in the helmet.

WHAT UP!!!

September 19th, 2009
8:54 pm

Hey reality bites…….all I heard before the season started was if a team were to shut down turner Matt would have a long day and wouldn’t be able to win a game w/o turner. Well……..once again Matt proved you people WRONG!!! The dolphins were in his face all day long and he still completed 61.1% of his passes ad threw 2 touchdowns. YEAH…….REALITY DOES BITE!!!! LOOSER

Jeremiah

September 19th, 2009
10:25 pm

Matt Ryan has a great deep ball, Season is early and he just needs to get his timing down…No worries, Go Falcons!!!

Victor

September 19th, 2009
11:37 pm

It is true about Matt throwing deep but I will say he can throw the ball accurate from 25 yards and closer.I think falcons will lose the close games if they need to go deep quickly and have short of time.The falcons got to have a good running game to be successful because of their rookie quarterback.The defense is playing great for them as of now but I give the credit to the line-backers and the front four.I forgot Brooking is gone and this why the line-backers are playing so good lol.Matt is a good quarterback but his arm strength will hold him back from being one of the NFL elite quarterback.

SOUTHERN ATL

September 20th, 2009
4:53 am

Check out Michael Vick’s new website:

http://mikevick.ning.com/

BADBADLKIFFIN

September 20th, 2009
6:13 am

Jeff, I was just wondering if you watched the UT-FLA game. Remember you said you’d sing Rocky Top in 12 languages if Fla. was upset by Kiffin’s TEAM. Just wondering if you had begun to practice there near the end??? Man that was no beat-down by any means and even the T-man knew he was in a battle. If we had had a QB like him, it would have been a beat-down by UT, right?

Free Mike Vick

September 20th, 2009
9:55 am

And if Vick were still here he would attain that dream, but noooooo….The Falcons turned their back on Vick and they will suffer!!!!

Doyle Hargraves

September 20th, 2009
12:23 pm

I had a dream I was setting down on a antique furniture chair and all of a sudden this midget came and set himself on my lap and I was asking him what he wanted for Chirstmas. He was waring a Falcons jersy and it said Grimes on the back of it. Hillbilly junk does some strange stuff to you some time wish I could chanel it and make moeny of my predications.

BamaBirDawg

September 21st, 2009
11:12 am

It took a lot of trust in the future of this franchise to bring Tony G to Atlanta. Let’s face it, the Falcons had been down so many times that a .500 season began to feel like up. But it has been the arrival of Arthur Blank that has erased so much of the past suffering… and survived in good fashion the Vick debacle. I hope his trust and faith is well placed and bears fruit… not just for him, but for all of us.