Smith Lends Insight into Gonzalez’s Decision

Smith Lends Insight into Gonzalez’s Decision

Jay Adams

Published March 12, 2013 at 4:48 PM

With the percentage of return dwindling eventually down to just 3, there wasn’t a whole lot of hope that tight end Tony Gonzalez would return to the Falcons for one more ride after coming up just short of the Super Bowl in 2012.

Smith — a positive person by nature — wouldn’t allow the 97 percent that said Gonzalez was going to hang it up sway him from trying to convince the future Hall-of-Famer to return. On Tuesday morning, he received the phone call that proved his belief in that 3 percent chance of Gonzalez coming back was not in vain.

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“I think, in Tony’s mind, from what I read from reports from him is that he felt like there was some unfinished business,” Smith said. “We all feel that way. In the offseason, you try to build your football team through a number of ways and, in my mind, we just signed one of the biggest free agents acquisitions in terms the guys that are available.”

Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff has said on several occasions that the Falcons are focused on retaining their own during the free agency period, and Gonzalez was a big, big piece of that strategy. Coming off one of his best seasons, with 93 receptions, 930 yards and eight touchdowns at the age of 36, Gonzalez — who just recently turned 37, seemed to wrestle with the decision to come back.

Smith said Tuesday that Gonzalez doesn’t want to miss training camp, but did say that he made promises to his family that the team will work around. With everything falling into place, Smith said the Falcons and Gonzalez have a deal in principle and that hammering out the contract should be short work.

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“It is good to be back,” Gonzalez said in a statement. “After speaking with my family we decided to give it one more shot. Being part of such a great team and organization was too much to pass up. I would also like to say thank you to all of the fans for their support over the last several weeks.”

The team and Gonzalez were in constant contact since the end of the NFC Championship game. With free agency beginning today and the draft drawing close, the team had plans to move on with or without Gonzalez, but the decision by Gonzalez to return Tuesday came at a perfect time for the team to prepare for the two important growth periods during the league year.

“I’m a very positive thinking guy, so I don’t let negative thoughts come into my mind very often. But I’m a realist as well, knowing that it’s a decision that Tony would have to make,” Smith said. “But my thoughts were Tony’s coming back, and that’s really more of my makeup in terms of being positive about the situation.”

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