No more 2nd chances for Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez

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No more 2nd chances for Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Tony Gonzalez has no intention of pulling a Ray Lewis before retirement.

There won't any lining up with the defense for the final play. Certainly there won't be anything resembling the Baltimore linebacker's trademark dance.

``You don't want to see me dance,'' Gonzalez joked Thursday, chuckling at the very thought. ``That's not a pretty thing. Trust me.''

While his dance skills may need some work, Gonzalez has hit just about every mark during his 16 years in the NFL.

All but one, that is.

As hard as it seems to believe, given his lengthy list of accomplishments while becoming perhaps the greatest tight end in football history, Gonzalez has never won a game on the biggest stage.

Not even one.

The gaping hole on his playoff resume eats at Gonzalez deeply.

``I'm not going to lie to you,'' he said. ``I really, really, really want to win this game.''

If the 36-year-old Gonzalez is to be believed, he's down to his final chance. The Atlanta tight end has maintained all year that retirement is 95 percent certain after the final game, and he's not backed down one iota despite an age-defying season in one of the NFL's most potent offenses.

So, if he doesn't get it done on Sunday, when the top-seeded Falcons (13-3) host the surging Seattle Seahawks (12-5) in an NFC divisional game, there likely won't be a chance for a do-over.

``For me, obviously, this could be it,'' Gonzalez said. ``There is no tomorrow. There is no saying, `We'll get `em next year.' It's about going out there and trying to finish on the right note.''

He's already done more than enough to start writing his speech for Canton. No tight end in NFL history has more receptions (1,242), receiving yards (14,268), touchdown catches (103), 100-yard games (30), Pro Bowl appearances (12) and 1,000-yard seasons (four).

Even more remarkable, Gonzalez shows no signs of slowing down.

This season, he led the Falcons with 93 receptions, no small feat on a team that also includes Roddy White and Julio Jones. He's totaled 930 yards receiving, his best output since being traded from Kansas City to the Falcons four years ago, eclipsed only by his 1,000-yard seasons with the Chiefs.

Fanatical about his workout program and always on the lookout for any new trend or discovery that might help him stay in peak physical condition, Gonzalez might not be quite as fast as that two-sport player who entered the league with the Chiefs in 1997. But no one is more in tune with his body, which is why quarterback Matt Ryan will always start looking for No. 88 when everyone else is covered.

``I tell him he's old all the time, so I guess his age does cross my mind every now and then,'' the 27-year-old Ryan said with a smile. ``But he certainly doesn't play that way. He keeps himself in perfect shape, takes care of himself as well as anybody. That's why I keep telling him he could play a couple of more years.''

The Falcons have made it clear they would love for Gonzalez to put off retirement for at least one more season, and he's left a slight crack open to a possible return.

He won't be making any definite plans before his final game, as Lewis did with the Ravens; in fact, there's unlikely to be any sort of announcement right after the season, either.

``It will probably be well into the offseason,'' Gonzalez revealed Thursday, about as definitive as he's been on how this will all play out. ``I want to make sure that I make the right decision.''

He pauses and considers his next words carefully.

``I'm not going to play that game with the media, and I'm really not going to play that game with my team,'' Gonzalez said. ``So, we'll see.''

The chance to get out while still in reasonably good health is no small consideration, especially with the news Thursday that former NFL star Junior Seau had a degenerative brain disease often linked with repeated blows to the head when he killed himself with a gunshot to the chest last year.

Gonzalez said he actually feels as good as he has in years, a testament to the Falcons giving him plenty of days off from practice and allowing him to essentially run his own workout program. He's got a way of conveying that message to tight ends coach Chris Scelfo.

``I always tell him, `Do you want it today or do you want in on Sunday?''' Gonzalez said. ``He always tells me, `I want it on Sunday.' So, I've been rested throughout the season. But I've just been lucky, too. I haven't taken any hard hits or had any serious injuries.''

Luck doesn't have all that much to do with it.

Going back to his college days, when he also played basketball at the University of California, he learned to put his hoop skills to use on the gridiron. No one is better at going up to pull down high throws. No one is better at using his body to shield defenders away from the ball. Not one is better at giving the slightest little twitch to get away from the full force of a blow.

``He has a very good knack of using his body,'' Falcons coach Mike Smith said. ``That's his basketball background in terms of trying to go up and get rebounds and box out.''

This is the fourth time Gonzalez has been on a 13-win team heading into the playoffs. Just two years ago, the Falcons were in the exact same position as they are now, needing two wins at home to reach the Super Bowl. Instead, they were blown out in the divisional round by Green Bay, 48-21.

A first-round loss to the Giants in last year's playoffs left Gonzalez at 0-for-5 in the postseason.

He believes this is his best chance yet to finally end the drought, playing on a tight-knit team with loads of talent.

And, when he's all alone and his mind wanders a bit, he'll envision what it would be like to be in the middle of the field with confetti falling all around in his final game.

To not only be a playoff winner, but to be a champion.

``Maybe if we had won the Super Bowl in my first year,'' he said, sounding perpetually hopeful, ``it wouldn't have been as sweet doing it in my last year.''

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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Three reasons why Flacco can finally top 4,000 yards passing next season

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Three reasons why Flacco can finally top 4,000 yards passing next season

Is a 4,000-yard passing season finally in the cards for Joe Flacco?

Though eight NFL seasons, Flacco has yet to throw for 4,000 yards in any year. He has come close – 3,986 yards in 2014, and 3,912 yards in 2013. And Flacco was on pace to pass throw for more than 4,000 yards last season, before his season-ending knee injury in Week 11.

Here are three reasons why I think Flacco will finally break the 4,000-yard barrier in 2016:

1. The time Flacco misses during OTA’s won’t matter.

Flacco is still not ready to participate in this week’s OTA’s after surgery, but the Ravens hope he will be on the field when training camp begins in late July. That should be plenty of time for Flacco to build chemistry with targets he has never lined up with like wide receivers Mike Wallace, Chris Moore, and Breshad Perriman, and tight end Ben Watson. By Week 1, Flacco will have more than enough practice reps to be ready.

RELATED: LOOKING AT THE RAVENS ROSTER LOCKS HEADING INTO OTA'S

2. The Ravens’ passing attack should be more explosive.

If they stay healthy, Wallace, Moore, and Perriman will give the Ravens big-play capability. Last season, the Ravens were forced to be methodical, and Flacco’s ability to throw deep was often wasted. Now he has more legitimate deep weapons.

3. Having the same coordinator should help the offense evolve.

The switch from Gary Kubiak to Marc Trestman as offensive coordinator was an adjustment last year, and there were some growing pains. Trestman and Flacco will begin the 2016 season with a comfort level they didn’t have last season. While the Ravens are committed to improving their running game, Trestman is not shy about throwing the football. Twelve quarterbacks threw for more than 4,000 yards last season. I think Flacco will join that list in 2016.

MORE FOOTBALL: BRADY TO PETITION FOR REHEARING ON DEFLATEGATE SUSPENSION

Looking at the Ravens roster locks heading into OTA's

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Looking at the Ravens roster locks heading into OTA's

With 90 players on their roster, the Ravens need plenty of trimming to reach the 53-man limit by Week 1 against the Bills. Heading into OTA’s that start on Tuesday, and before some unfortunate injuries that are bound to occur, here are the players I see as locks to make the roster:

Offense: (21)

Quarterback (2) – Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett

Running back (3) – Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon

Fullback (1) – Kyle Juszczyk

Tight end (3) – Crockett Gillmore, Ben Watson, Maxx Williams

Wide receiver (5) – Steve Smith Sr., Kamar Aiken, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Chris Moore

Offensive line (7) – Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Jeremy Zuttah, Rick Wagner, John Urschel, Ryan Jensen, Alex Lewis

It’s going to be an interesting battle at running back, with Lorenzo Taliaferro, Terrance West, and Trent Richardson vying for a spot, and Forsett being pushed to keep his starting job. I don’t see the Ravens cutting Forsett, even if he doesn’t start. If Dennis Pitta is cleared for contact, I would expect he’d make the roster at tight end. If the Ravens don’t release or trade Eugene Monroe, he’ll likely be the starting left tackle, with Stanley playing left guard. Maybe I shouldn’t make Lewis and Moore locks, but it would surprise me to see either fourth-round draft pick getting cut. The wide receiver competition will be intense. Michael Campanaro, Kaelin Clay, and rookie Keenan Reynolds are also part of a crowded wide receiver field.

RELATED: BRADY TO PETITION FOR REHEARING ON DEFLATEGATE SUSPENSION

Defense (20)

Defensive line: (7) - Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, Lawrence Guy, Brent Urban, Bronson Kaufusi, Carl Davis, Willie Henry

Linebacker  - (7) C. J. Mosley, Elvis Dumervil, Terrell Suggs, Za’Darius Smith, Kamalei Correa, Zach Orr, Albert McClellan

Defensive back (6) – Jimmy Smith, Eric Weddle, Shareece Wright,  Lardarius Webb, Tavon Young, Jerraud Powers

I think pass rusher Matt Judon (fifth-round pick) will make it, but too early to call him a lock. The defensive backfield will be most interesting. I’m tempted to call safety Kendrick Lewis a lock, but I won’t this early. The same holds true for safety Terrence Brooks and cornerback Kyle Arrington. Matt Elam is fighting to win a spot at safety, but he has been major disappointment so far as a former first-round pick.

Special teams (3)

Justin Tucker (K), Sam Koch (P), Morgan Cox (LS)

That makes 44 roster locks by my count, leaving nine spots wide open. Get ready for an interesting spring and summer. Coming off a 5-11 season, playing time is up for grabs at many positions.

MORE RAVENS: HOW PRODUCTIVE WILL THE RAVENS' TIGHT ENDS BE IN 2016?

Brady to petition for rehearing on Deflategate suspension

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Brady to petition for rehearing on Deflategate suspension

New England quarterback Tom Brady will file a petition to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday for a second hearing in the never-ending saga that is Deflategate. NFL Players Association attorney Theodore B. Olson made the announcement on "Good Morning America" on Monday.

The court reinstated Brady's four-game suspension in April by a 2-1 decision, ruling that the punishment was fair and within Roger Goodell's authority as determined by the collective bargaining agreement.

Brady is now filing for a rehearing of the appeal in front of the full panel of judges on the court. The panel consists of 13 judges, but only three were assigned to the original hearing. Seven of the 13 judges would have to agree to hear the case. Normally that would be a long shot, but, as Pro Football Talk points out, the Chief Judge was the one judge who sided with Brady in the original hearing.

If you're hoping Brady's petition is denied just so we can be finished with this, then I've got some bad news. If the petition is denied, Brady can file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. And o course, you would have to expect Brady's legal team to file for a stay, delaying the suspension until the case is finally resolved.

Regardless, it looks like this is going to continue to drag on.

RELATED: HOW PRODUCTIVE WILL THE RAVENS' TIGHT ENDS BE IN 2016?