Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez celebrates as he leaves the field after defeating the Seattle Seahawks 30-28 in the NFC divisional playoff game at the Georgia Dome. (Photo: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports)
by Jim Corbett, USA TODAY SPORTS
- Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez has said he is probably retiring
- But the elusive Super Bowl appearance still nags at him
- A person close to Gonzalez says he'd bet that Gonzalez will play one more season
Tight end Tony Gonzalez, who insisted last season he was as high as "97%" likely to retire, is expected to inform the Atlanta Falcons that he will return for another season and another run at a championship that has eluded him, a person familiar with Gonzalez's thinking told USA TODAY Sports on Sunday.
The person spoke on the condition of anonymity, because Gonzalez has not said anything publicly about his decision.
"There's a pretty darn good chance that he comes back," the person said. ''He's been chasing that Super Bowl for a long time. If I was a betting man, I'd say he'd be on the side of trying to come back.''
Gonzalez, 37, said repeatedly in 2012 that he was "95%'' sure he would retire after his 16th NFL season. He raised those odds to "97%'' after the Falcons won their divisional-round playoff game against Seattle, the first postseason win of Gonzalez's career. Gonzalez said the percentages of retiring would have increased to 99% had the Falcons advanced to the Super Bowl instead of losing to San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game.
According to a Sunday report by Yahoo's Michael Silver, Gonzalez, according to those close to him, would return for 2013 if the Falcons met certain conditions, such as a reduced training camp and a raise. Gonzalez earned a $3.9 milllion base salary and $1 million roster bonus in 2012.
He caught 93 passes with eight touchdowns last season, and he showed no signs of slowing down, adding 14 catches and two touchdowns in Atlanta's two playoff games.
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said at last month's scouting combine in Indianapolis that Gonzalez would be welcome back with open arms if he decided to play a 17th season. Gonzalez was named first-team all-pro for the sixth time, and the 13-time Pro Bowler holds league records for receptions (1,242) and yards (14,268) by a tight end.
Dimitroff said he was hopeful Gonzalez would return to the Falcons, a team that believes it's on the cusp of a Super Bowl appearance. At that time, Dimitroff guessed it was "50-50" Gonzalez would return, then later backpedaled.
"Now we're staring down the barrel potentially of a fifth season (of Gonzalez in Atlanta), which I'm just taking a year at a time, and I'm happy he's even contemplaing coming back to play,'' Dimitroff said.