He began last year's training camp with a percentage. The future Hall of Famer, Tony Gonzalez, seemed comfortable in his statement to the media on the first day of camp in 2012 that he would retire after the season. He put the odds at 95 percent, keeping the door open for a change of mind. He played out the season, one of the best of his legendary career and won the first playoff game of his 16-year career, although fell short of the ultimate goal: a Super Bowl.
The taste of a Super Bowl may have been too much for Gonzalez to resist and on Tuesday the Falcons tight end announced he will be returning for one more run. Everyone with ties to the Falcons organization held out hope throughout the offseason that the terrible odds Gonzalez presented would change and eventually they did. Gonzalez returns to a team poised for another playoff streak and maybe this time send out one of the best of all time with a championship.
Although it was believed to be his last season at the time, Gonzalez played some of the best football of his career at the age of 36 during 2012. He ended the season with 93 catches for 930 yards and eight touchdowns. Though he fell just shy of 1,000 yards for the fifth time in his career, the yardage gained was the fifth highest of his storied career. His four 1,000-yard seasons is a tight end record as are his career receptions (1,242), receiving yards (14,268), TD catches (103) and 100-yard games (103).
He was once again one of the best tight ends in the game, despite his age, and earned his 12th Pro Bowl honor, a record for tight ends in the league. He also holds the record for Pro Bowl receptions (42) and Pro Bowl touchdowns (6).
Gonzalez' longevity and healthy career are as historic as the numbers he posted in his career. Gonzalez' dedication to a healthy lifestyle and training that has reserved his body over the course of years in the NFL is reflected in both his numbers and his consistency. He played in 262 games in his career and started 243 of them. He's only missed two games in his career and he currently holds the league record for most consecutive starts by a tight end (120).
In Week 10 of the 2012 season, Gonzalez continued to write his name in the record books of the NFL. In what may have been his best single-game performance of the season, he caught 11 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns, becoming the first tight end with 100 TDs in his career. More impressively, he crossed the 1,200-catch threshold, joining Jerry Rice as the only player to have logged that many catches. He's currently second on the NFL's all-time career receptions list.
Gonzalez' 2012 season also stood out in Falcons franchise history. His eight TDs tied Alge Crumpler for second most in a single season and his 93 receptions were tied for the fifth most in team history. Additionally his four straight seasons of 70-plus catches (326 total) are the most in team history. Over the span of his career, 2012 marked the 10th straight season with 70-or-more catches, tying an NFL record. He's broken the 70-catch mark 13 times in his career and is the holder of the longest active streak with a reception in 195 straight games. While the future of Gonzalez' career is anything but guaranteed beyond 2013, he's back for at least one more record-setting season with his sights set on a championship.
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