We jumped the gun by composing our tribute to Tony Gonzalez last weekend (after he broke the 15,000 yard mark) instead of this week like seemingly everyone else. If you missed it, you can find it here.
So instead of us regurgitating our homage to the best tight end there ever was, we thought it'd be interesting to hear what Gonzalez's Falcons teammates and head coach had to say about the legend.
"I think it's going to be an emotional time on Sunday, I'm sure it's going to be emotional for Tony and for a lot of folks. He played a lot of good football throughout his career. Tony's been a great mentor to a lot of young players. A lot of it is not what he says, it's what he does. As I've said many times, it's from the minute he walks in through this building and goes to the cafeteria. He's eating the right things, he's in the weight room, he puts in extra work, he comes out to the practice field early. He never changes his routine. I think that just speaks volumes about his work ethic."
"He'll be back next year (laughs). It's been good playing with him, I'll tell you that. He's a pro's pro. Going out there everyday, giving out lessons, and coming out here and being consistent. He's been the most consistent guy I've seen over the last five or six years he's been here. He's been the ultimate teammate. The fundamental things he does out there in practice, you just go out there and follow him, and you know, you become consistent yourself."
"You try and approach [the game] like any other week, but we all know it's a little bit different. So you know, it'll be bittersweet. I'm happy for him that he finished this year out. I think he had an awesome year, and played really, really well for us and carried us at times. But you're sad to see him moving on selfishly because he's been such a great player and such a great teammate. It sure has been a fun ride. I think guys know we want to send him out with a win, and we'd love to be able to do that. So we'd love to see him play well and go away with a win."
Tip of the hat to atlantafalcons.com for providing video footage of the press interviews.
No matter how you slice it, it's going to be a sad day for the Atlanta Falcons and their fans. We've been so fortunate to have been witnesses to true greatness and will likely never see a tight end as consistently good (for 17 years he's played at this level!) as Tony Gonzalez. Enjoy it one more time tomorrow Falcons fans.
For as terrible as this season has been, one thing hasn't, and that's old number 88.
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