2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Falcons' Gonzalez takes new approach to final camp

By GEORGE HENRY - Associated Press
    2013-07-26 17:59

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) - Tony Gonzalez had to wait until his final season to strike a perfect training camp balance for both him and the Atlanta Falcons.

NFL players routinely are excused from practice to address serious personal matters, but it's very rare for them to get big blocks of time away from the team for non-emergencies.

Gonzalez, though, had plenty of leverage with the Falcons after helping them advance to the NFC title game last season and earning his 13th Pro Bowl invitation.

So the two sides struck an accord to suit them both.

Gonzalez, 37, agreed in March to put off his retirement to return for a fifth year in Atlanta and 17th overall. In turn, the team agreed to let him miss parts of training camp so could spend extra time with family and watch his 12-year-old son Nikko practice football in California.

``Right now, I'm here, but there were some obligations I made to my family, more specifically to my son last year around this time, because I was going to retire,'' he said. ``I wasn't joking about that last season.''

On the first day of training camp last year, Gonzalez told reporters that he was 95 percent that 2012 would be his last season.

But after Atlanta fell 10 yards shy of winning the NFC title, Gonzalez told himself the Falcons were too talented - and that he was still playing at such an elite level - that he might regret not trying one last time to reach the Super Bowl.

After all, it took 16 years for him to finally win a playoff game. Now he has a chance to help Atlanta, which earned a No. 1 playoff seed in 2010 and '12, win the Lombardi Trophy.

``This is my last season, and I'm looking forward to it,'' he said. ``This is going to be fun - just being with the guys that are on this team and with the fan support - the sky's the limit on what we can do, but we have to work hard. We know we're a long way away from where we were last year, and it starts with that first game in New Orleans.''

Neither Gonzalez nor coach Mike Smith said how many days the player will miss, but both added there's no cause for concern. Both insist the absences won't affect his job performance.

``There'll be some time that he'll be here in training camp, and some time where he won't,'' Smith said. ``I think those decisions were made prior to him deciding whether he was going to play again. We're glad he's here. He's going to be here for a while, and then he's going to be gone. Then he'll be back.''

Added Gonzalez, ``I'll join the team early. I'm not going to be showing up the week before the game. I'll be out here a lot earlier than that, but I'll be ready to go, too. You can bet the house on that.''

In past years, Gonzalez never tried to hide his disdain for training camp. Too much work that caused too many bodies to wear down during in the season, he often said, but the NFL's new collective bargaining agreement limited the number of workouts and how much players had to wear pads.

It helped further that Smith routinely gives players in his ``over-30 club'' extra time off during the season, and Gonzalez appreciated that the Falcons had allowed him in past years to miss all of the offseason workouts.

Quarterback Matt Ryan said on Friday that he flew to Southern California recently to spend a couple of days on the field with Gonzalez and make sure their timing on routes stays sharp.

``He and I have a great rapport,'' Ryan said. ``I think that with that time and then over the last couple of days out here, it's going to be fine when he comes back. It's not an issue at all.''

Another influence on his decision to put off retirement this year was the offseason support from Atlanta fans. He was delighted that the Fox Theatre downtown scrolled ``Tony Gonzalez Is Coming Back!!!'' across its marquee.

``My wife is big on social media, and she told me how they had a fan page and people were signing petitions to try to get me back,'' Gonzalez said. ``That's cool stuff right there to know that the city is behind you, and I know it's not just me. It's behind what we have here as a team, and they know that I'm just a part of that puzzle.''

Notes: The Falcons announced they've sold out all home games for this season. Single game tickets were gone after one day on sale this week, but some club seats and suites are still available. Team president Rich McKay said the Falcons set a franchise high in season ticket sales earlier this year. Atlanta went 8-1 at the Georgia Dome last season before losing the NFC championship game. ... For the second straight day, rookie CBs Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, the first- and second-round draft picks, took turns with the first-team defense. Neither is having much luck in defending Pro Bowl WRs Julio Jones and Roddy White, but Ryan praised the rookies' perseverance. ``Trufant came up with a pick on me earlier,'' Ryan said. ``He made a great break on the ball, and Alford contested probably three or four passes. I've been impressed with those guys. They've got good swagger, and I think they're really going to help our football team.''

---

Follow George Henry on Twitter: http://twitter.com/georgehenryAP

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Zach MettenbergerOct 21 04:18p

Tennessee Titans QB Jake Locker (thumb) will start at quarterback when he's healthy, according to head coach Ken Whisenhunt. QB Charlie Whitehurst has filled in for Locker twice this [ More ]

Bene BenwikereOct 21 04:13p

Carolina Panthers CB Bene Benwikere (ankle) will return as the starting nickel cornerback when he's back from his injury, according to head coach Ron Rivera. If Benwikere can't play [ More ]

Martavis BryantOct 21 04:06p

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Martavis Bryant cut into WR Markus Wheaton's workload in Week 7 against the Houston Texans, and QB Ben Roethlisberger took three 'shot' plays down the field [ More ]

Andre EllingtonOct 21 04:03p

Arizona Cardinals RB Andre Ellington had 88 yards rushing and 72 yards receiving in Week 7, and only four players in franchise history since 1960 to have more yards [ More ]

Ryan MathewsOct 21 03:43p

San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee) did not practice Tuesday, Oct. 21, and is not expected to play Thursday, Oct. 23, against the Denver Broncos.

Donald BrownOct 21 03:43p

San Diego Chargers RB Donald Brown (concussion) did not practice Tuesday, Oct. 21, and is not expected to play Thursday, Oct. 23, against the Denver Broncos.

Michael SamOct 21 03:33p

The Dallas Cowboys cut DE Michael Sam from the team's practice squad Tuesday, Oct. 21.

Charles GodfreyOct 21 03:13p

The Carolina Panthers released CB Charles Godfrey Tuesday, Oct 21.

LaRon ByrdOct 21 02:33p

The Miami Dolphins signed free-agent WR LaRon Byrd (Cowboys) and re-signed DT Deandre Coleman Tuesday, Oct. 21.

R. Griffin IIIOct 21 02:13p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (ankle) will not be ruled out for Week 8 against the Dallas Cowboys, but he has a long way to go in order [ More ]

Brian HoyerOct 21 02:13p

Cleveland Browns QB Johnny Manziel could see some action in Week 8 against the Oakland Raiders, according to head coach Mike Pettine. However, Pettine said Monday, Oct. 20, that [ More ]

C.J. SpillerOct 21 02:13p

The Buffalo Bills placed RB C.J. Spiller (collarbone) on short-term Reserve/Injured Tuesday, Oct. 21.

Ray RiceOct 21 01:33p

Free-agent RB Ray Rice (Ravens) will have the appeal of his indefinite suspension from the NFL heard Nov. 5-6, according to media reports. A decision on whether commissioner Roger [ More ]

Jason KelceOct 21 01:23p

Philadelphia Eagles C David Molk will remain the center for now, with C Jason Kelce (hernia) nearing a return from his injury.

Shamarko ThomasOct 21 01:23p

Pittsburgh Steelers LB Ryan Shazier (knee) and SS Shamarko Thomas (hamstring) 'have a pretty good chance' of returning in Week 8 against the Indianapolis Colts, according to head coach Mike Tomlin.

Darren SprolesOct 21 01:23p

Philadelphia Eagles RB Darren Sproles (knee) returned to practice Tuesday, Oct. 21.

Phillip TannerOct 21 01:13p

The Buffalo Bills are signing free-agent RB Phillip Tanner (Cowboys) Tuesday, Oct. 21.

Calvin JohnsonOct 21 01:13p

Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson (ankle) said he is back to running Tuesday, Oct. 21. Johnson sat out in Week 7 against the New Orleans Saints and appears to [ More ]

Terrelle PryorOct 21 01:13p

Free-agent QB Terrelle Pryor (Seahawks) is working out for the New York Giants Tuesday, Oct. 21, according to a person familiar with the workouts. It appears as though Pryor [ More ]

Reggie WayneOct 21 12:53p

Updating previous reports, Indianapolis Colts WR Reggie Wayne's (elbow) injury isn't believed to be serious, but it could cause him to miss a game or two, according to a [ More ]

Phil TaylorOct 21 12:23p

Cleveland Browns DE Phil Taylor (knee) is expected to miss his third straight game in Week 8 after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Oct. 8.

A.J. GreenOct 21 12:12p

Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green (toe) said his return from a toe injury is 'still up in the air' heading into Week 8 against the Baltimore Ravens. However, Green [ More ]

Le'Veon BellOct 21 12:03p

Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell became the first running back in team history to start the year with seven straight games of 100 yards of total offense. Bell ran [ More ]

Antonio AndrewsOct 21 11:03a

Tennessee Titans RB Antonio Andrews was promoted to the 53-man roster Tuesday, Oct. 21.

Dwayne AllenOct 21 10:33a

Indianapolis Colts TE Dwayne Allen (hip) said he is still working his way back to pre-injury form, but he looks a lot better than he did in training camp, [ More ]

Reggie WayneOct 21 10:33a

Indianapolis Colts WR Reggie Wayne (elbow) could miss time with his elbow injury. Beat writer Stephen Holder tweeted that he isn't receiving good vibes from the situation, but it [ More ]

Terrance WestOct 21 09:43a

Cleveland Browns RB Terrance West was benched Sunday, Oct. 19, after failing to pick up a first down in two short-yardage situations. He had room to run on both [ More ]

Ben TateOct 21 09:43a

Cleveland Browns RBs Ben Tate, Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West were held to 69 yards on 33 carries in Week 7, and head coach Mike Pettine suggested a change [ More ]

Pierre ThomasOct 21 08:53a

New Orleans Saints RB Pierre Thomas (shoulder) is expected to miss two to three weeks due to a shoulder injury, according to sources.

Trindon HollidayOct 21 08:23a

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed free-agent WR Trindon Holliday (Giants) to an undisclosed deal Tuesday, Oct. 21.

Tharold SimonOct 20 11:04p

Seattle Seahawks CB Tharold Simon (ankle) and CB Byron Maxwell (calf) may be able to play in Week 7, according to head coach Pete Carroll.

A.J. GreenOct 20 10:33p

Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green (toe) said he will play Sunday, Oct. 26, against the Baltimore Ravens, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group