Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez says he feels great at 35 years old.
He's coming off his 11th Pro Bowl in 14 NFL seasons — all 11 in the past 12 years — and finished fourth among tight ends in receptions in 2010. He plays in an offense that could be among the league's best on a team that could have legitimate Super Bowl aspirations for at least a few more seasons.
And Gonzalez might be about to embark on the final season of his career, assuming the lockout ends in time for there to be a season.
Yes, Gonzalez — whom some consider the greatest tight end of all time — says he plans to play this year, but isn't sure he'll put off retirement when his contract expires after the season.
"I'm taking it one year at a time," Gonzalez told PFW. "Say we get a season started and we go out there. The only way I would be for certain that I'm going to retire is if we go out there and win the Super Bowl this year, which could happen because we have a really good football team.
"I'm just going to wait and see."
Gonzalez is a lock to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He's the leader in key statistical categories for tight ends and is only 34 catches away from moving into the No. 2 spot in receptions behind Jerry Rice, but he still wants to add Super Bowl champion to his resume.
Following the addition of Julio Jones, the Alabama wide receiver GM Thomas Dimitroff traded up 21 spots to select sixth overall in April's draft, Gonzalez said he believes his chances of getting a ring are better than ever.
"I really do believe that this is the best football team I've ever played on," he said. "… I'm anxious to get back out there and see what we can do this year, especially with the additions that we've made and I'm sure we'll make a couple more. Once the ink dries on that new (Collective Bargaining Agreement), I'm sure Thomas Dimitroff and Coach Smitty [Mike Smith] are going to be out there picking up a couple more pieces for us to go out there and make this Super Bowl run."
While Gonzalez isn't sure how many more seasons he will play, he doesn't have any doubt about what he'll do when he retires.
After changing his diet and noticing the results that came from eating healthier, he co-founded All-Pro Science, a sports nutritional supplement company, in 2009 and, in addition to daily workouts, he's spending his time getting the word out about APS. He said the company has signed 60 professional athletes and has grown from one employee to nine.
"We have, I think, a customer base of 20,000 now and it's growing all the time," Gonzalez said. "People are really starting to pick up on it.
"It's a way of living. It's not by any means a diet or a fad or something like that."
Gonzalez, who also wrote a book — "The All-Pro Diet" — said he's working on a health and wellness lecture that he could give to high school, college athletes and possibly office workers, too. He's considering getting his certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine to become a personal trainer and said he would love to earn a dietician's license.
"That's what I'm going to do, it's not what I want to do, it's what I'm going to do when I get done playing football," Gonzalez said. "It's what I'm doing right now. That's why I'm here everyday at the office.
"I could be out there doing what, I guess, most of the players are doing, and there's nothing wrong with that. I was one of those guys a while back, but it's just now that I see the end is near, the window is closing and I found a great passion that can fill my time."
What keeps him dedicated to the cause? Gonzalez said one man stopped him in an airport and said that APS had "changed his life." One woman wrote a letter to thank APS after her husband had lost significant weight while using the products.
"It was like she was crying through the letter," Gonzalez said.
It's instances like those, and the results he has seen from using the products himself, that have helped make him so passionate about sharing his message.
"I feel great at 35," he said. "That's another reason why I love telling people about my story because I was one of those guys going into Year 10 (of my career) and I was hurting. I thought maybe I'd get lucky if I played two more years and here I am going on Year 15 now and I feel great. I feel better than I did my first 10 years in the league as far as my body goes. I might not be able to jump as high as I used to, but I'm still just as fast and just as quick."
As for the NFL's current labor battle, Gonzalez said NFL Players' Association executive director DeMaurice Smith is doing a good job of communicating and keeping players updated. While Gonzalez has not been directly involved in negotiations with owners, he's monitoring the situation closely.
"I'm anticipating that we will have a season this year," he said. "I really find it highly unlikely that we won't play this year, but I also think it could happen."
While some are optimistic that there will soon be a new CBA and a full 2011 season will be saved, Gonzalez isn't so sure.
"Don't believe all of what you're hearing in the media," he said. "We're close to getting a deal done? To me, that's definitely not the case. At least, from I've heard talking to De and the other player representatives around the league. We're not as close to a deal as everybody thinks."
Until that deal is done, Gonzalez will have no trouble staying busy while working at the offices of APS in Irvine, Calif., and preparing for what could be his final NFL season.
"It's kind of like my transition into the next phase after I retire," he said. "We'll see if that's this year or next year, but it's coming up here pretty soon."
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