As the countdown gets smaller and the excitement keeps building, Tony Gonzalez truly couldn't be more excited about Sunday. Not only do the Falcons kick off their season, but they do so against their NFC South rivals, the New Orleans Saints. The game will also mark the last first game for Gonzalez, who plans to retire at the end of this season.
Once the veteran tight end hits the field at Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Gonzalez plans to give it everything he's got while still enjoying the entire experience.
"I'm soaking it up," he said. "I'm going to try to enjoy every last second that I'm out on that field and the opportunity to play football because I know it's going to end here pretty soon."
Gonzalez acknowledges that the game carries extra meaning given the history of the two teams and because it's a division game, meaning the game could set the tone for the rest of the season.
When you factor in last year and the dramatics that both teams experienced, it pumps up the adrenaline for the game even more. Still, Gonzalez believes that the Falcons have prepared well and will be more than ready.
"It's the rivalry," Gonzalez said. "It's going to be a great environment, their crowd is going to be absolutely nuts, their team is going to be hyped, so we know what we're getting ourselves into."
Gonzalez also didn't seem worried about some hurdles they might have to overcome, like adjusting to the Saints' changed defense — they hired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and changed to a 3-4 formation — or the Falcons' issues with the red zone.
Instead, he's focused on the Falcons executing everything they have prepared for while enjoying the experience of starting his final season with what's stacked up to be an intense game.
"Game week. You can't get better than this," Gonzalez said. "This is what's it's all about. I can't wait to see how it all comes together for us. It's going to be a lot of fun."