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Count Zarth
10-01-2006, 05:43 AM
http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/sports/football/nfl/kansas_city_chiefs/15644976.htm

By ELIZABETH MERRILL
The Kansas City Star

The old man told him to keep away from bread, red meat and bad elements. Stay consistent, that’s what Warren Moon used to say to Tony Gonzalez. In some ways, Gonzalez is still that 23-year-old kid, the California beach boy who’d lie in the grass and listen, destined for Hollywood but stuck in the middle of America.

Other times, he’s much older.

“I enjoy him because he’s different,” Moon says. “A lot of young guys want to do it on their own. They think they have all the answers. He was smarter than that.”

Chiefs institutions never really fade away. They stand tall for years, then end up as a bronze bust near an elevator at Arrowhead Stadium. Ten years in one town, 12 pages worth of records, and Gonzalez has established he’ll be part of franchise lore. Today, he’s on the verge of breaking Otis Taylor’s all-time touchdown reception record, a coveted club mark that has stood for three decades. Tomorrow, Kansas Citians will chatter over coffee about what Tony G did on another fall Sunday.

And Gonzalez doesn’t want to think about it.

There are other things weighing on his mind these days. A contract that hasn’t been worked out, a team that hasn’t lived up to its potential, a career that has spanned seven Pro Bowls but never come close to touching the Lamar Hunt Trophy.

For Gonzalez, it’s never been enough. He wants the respect of a veteran, the hype of a rookie sensation and the hardware of a champion.

“Tony has a lot of pride,” Moon says. “He’s conscious of all the tight ends in the league. Believe me, Tony keeps up with every catch, everything they’re doing. He likes the fact that he’s labeled one of the best to ever play the game, and he wants to keep that title.”

•••

Fred Arbanas will give you a lesson in longevity. His shoulders have been replaced with titanium, his left hip is new, his right hip and knee are next under the knife. Arbanas uses the phrase “boogered up” for old guys like himself who need patience and a good insurance plan.

After nine seasons with the old Texans and Chiefs, Arbanas was considered the gold standard for tight ends, even though it’s been tinted with titanium rust. The position was much different then, Arbanas says. The rules have changed.

A tight end’s main job used to be as a blocker, and if he could catch a few passes it was a bonus. Blow up the guy and bury him, that was the plan. And try not to get clotheslined. Arbanas was a teammate of Taylor’s, and he says Gonzalez could’ve made it back then.

“You could’ve taken Tony and put him with anybody at any stage of the game over the last 60 or 70 years,” Arbanas says, “and he’d still probably be the most outstanding athlete on the field. He’s just amazed me with some of the things he’s been able to do.

“Tony is probably the greatest athlete I’ve ever seen on a football field.”

Gonzalez has more receptions (660), receiving yards (7,898) and touchdown catches (57) than any other active tight end in the NFL. If he stays healthy, he could eventually pass Shannon Sharpe as the league’s all-time reception leader at his position.

Tight ends generally hit the wall in their late 20s, and when Gonzalez’s numbers were down at midseason last year, some wondered whether he was beginning that slide. He came back to finish with 78 catches for 905 yards on a team that relied heavily on his blocking skills.

“I don’t think it applies to me,” Gonzalez says. “Jeremy Shockey, Todd Heap, Kellen Winslow … I love how those guys make those little comments in the papers, or the reporters who deem that maybe I’ve fallen off and those guys have taken the torch. I really don’t care if they take the torch. I just use that as fuel for me to go out there and keep working.

“I try to hang with those guys. I’m not that old myself. I’ve got a lot of really good football left. I feel like my best football is now. And it’s not just the numbers. It’s about being a complete tight end for me.”

Gonzalez’s all-around game was tested last year, when Pro Bowl left tackle Willie Roaf went down with a hamstring injury. The Chiefs turned to Gonzalez to be more of a blocker, and he says it’s helped him in the long run.

But with those new responsibilities came a little unrest. After an early-season loss to Philadelphia last year, when Gonzalez had few touches, he suggested in the locker room that the Chiefs use him or move him.

When coach Herm Edwards arrived this winter, there were whispers that he gave Gonzalez a stat sheet outlining how his numbers went down in Al Saunders’ offense. But Edwards and tight end Jason Dunn say every player received a sheet of his statistics, just to remind them where they were and where they need to go.

“He’s still good,” Edwards says. “When you have a guy like that, you’ve got to use him.”

•••

All of the Chiefs’ first-round busts were temporarily forgotten in the spring of 1997, when Kansas City moved up five spots in the draft to select an All-American from Cal with movie-star looks who could dunk a basketball and leap over linebackers.

The thing most people don’t remember about Tony Gonzalez the future Hall of Famer, the reality TV star, is that rookie season, he dropped his share of passes. He got down on himself and questioned his place in Marty Schottenheimer’s offense.

He stayed after practice, worked on the Jugs machine and became one of the most sure-handed tight ends in the league.

He’s maddeningly particular about everything, from his disbelief in personal trainers — he doesn’t like them, won’t have them — to what he watches on TV and eats. Gonzalez says he’s never seen “Desperate Housewives” and only watches football, movies and educational shows.

He stays away from pork, bread, starch and heavy meat consumption. It’s a diet Moon kept in his playing days, and it helped him play in the CFL and NFL for 23 years.

“But he does eat a lot,” Moon says. “He has a huge appetite. We never go anywhere without him ordering an appetizer first, then salad, dessert. … He doesn’t mind the sweets. But he keeps all that other stuff out of there.”

Whenever Gonzalez had a problem in his early years, he turned to Moon to get the quarterback’s perspective. If Gonzalez didn’t feel as if he was being totally utilized, Moon would explain why Elvis Grbac couldn’t get him the ball.

He never cared about his touches, Moon says, unless the team was losing.

“I think he’s probably one of the most loyal people I’ve ever met,” he says. “He’s loyal to his family and close friends, and there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for them. I don’t think most people know that. He has a network around him that he really values. Once you have his loyalty, you have it forever.”

•••

From his spot on “Cooking with Celebrities” to his appearance on MTV’s “Cribs,” Gonzalez exudes Hollywood. He makes middle-aged housewives swoon in their No. 88 jerseys with a flash of his $6.5 million smile. It’s kind of strange — the man who’s destined for a TV career when football is over may spend his entire career in smaller-market Kansas City.

At least that’s the way Gonzalez hopes it ends. His contract will void at the end of the season, and Chiefs president/general manager Carl Peterson has made it clear for months that getting Gonzalez an extension is a top priority.

But Kansas City has other concerns right now, including left tackle Kyle Turley’s sore back, and Gonzalez is still waiting for a new deal. It’s obviously on his mind. He brought it up recently as he was wrapping up an interview. He’d hoped to get it wrapped up before camp ended. Now he’s wondering whether it’ll get done this season.

“I don’t even want to be put in that situation,” Gonzalez says, “where other teams are courting me. Because I love Kansas City, and I want to be here. I became a man in Kansas City.

“I talked to some close people that I trust, and they said: ‘You know what? Don’t worry about anything. You worry about winning football games, that’s it.’ And that’s what I’ve done.”

•••

Every year during Super Bowl week, Gonzalez and Shannon Sharpe hop on a stage and do a skit. The schtick is the same — trash talk, banter and a little chest-thumping between tight ends. Sharpe picks his spot, then unloads his favorite zinger.

You can have all the records you want, Tony. But I don’t see any jewelry …

Gonzalez usually laughs. Of course it doesn’t bother him.

“Nah,” he says. “I make fun of his clothes or how he has a big tongue.”

It takes a few minutes to sift through Gonzalez’s records and numbers in the Chiefs’ media guide. It takes less than a second for him to tally up one important statistic: playoff wins. The Chiefs haven’t gotten one of those since 1993, when Gonzalez was still in high school.

If a man is ultimately judged by the numbers that come in the back of the book, the ones he shares with 52 of his buddies, then Gonzalez knows there will be a void if he never can get there. Every camp, it seems, he’s standing in front of a microphone, being asked whether this is the year the window closes on the Chiefs’ offense. Every year he flashes that smile and says no.

Always the optimist, Gonzalez believes he has at least five years left in him. He’d defy logic and limbs, but some believe that what Gonzalez does with his 6-foot-5, 251-pound basketball-star body already does that.

“I think Kansas City should release him, and I think he should go to Denver,” Broncos coach Mike Shanahan joked recently. “He’s still one of the best in the game. He’ll be playing for a number of more years.”

People close to Gonzalez say that at 30, he’s just reaching his prime. When starting quarterback Trent Green went out with a concussion in the season opener, the Chiefs went to Gonzalez because he’s the closest to a sure thing, a safe-money bet. Gonzalez already has 12 catches in two games. He tied Taylor’s touchdown record in the first game of the season. It’s the only time Kansas City has found the end zone in 2006.

“He’s mentally a much more mature player at 30,” Edwards says. “I know I was. Because all of the things you thought about when you were a rookie, are you going to make the league … All those things have passed you by. You can see the end pretty soon. You appreciate the game more, I think, when you’re at that age.”

Whenever Gonzalez mentions “that age,” it’s followed with … “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not old or anything.” He isn’t chasing time anymore. And after one more touchdown, he won’t be chasing Otis Taylor. He’s after something more elusive: everything.

Count Zarth
10-01-2006, 05:43 AM
You'll miss him when he's gone.

Bill Parcells
10-01-2006, 05:48 AM
Wow..he's 30 already..time flies!!!

Coach
10-01-2006, 05:49 AM
Gonzo came a long way since his days in Cal.

I can remember him dropping very easy passes early on during his career. Now it seems that a drop by number 88 is very rare now these days.

milkman
10-01-2006, 06:06 AM
Gonzo came a long way since his days in Cal.

I can remember him dropping very easy passes early on during his career. Now it seems that a drop by number 88 is very rare now these days.

I see it differently.

While he doesn't drop balls as much as he did early in his career, he's had only one season when he was sure handed; 2004.

Every other season in his career, he has dropped a number of catchable balls.

Coach
10-01-2006, 06:08 AM
I see it differently.

While he doesn't drop balls as much as he did early in his career, he's had only one season when he was sure handed; 2004.

Every other season in his career, he has dropped a number of catchable balls.

That's reasonable. I was saying though, that he was so consistent on dropping the balls very often early during his career.

runnercyclist
10-01-2006, 08:09 AM
We are fortunate at TE with Gonzo, drops or not.

Fairplay
10-01-2006, 08:18 AM
I don't think we have utilized him as a TE close to what we should.

Especially for being the leagues best at his position.

Wile_E_Coyote
10-01-2006, 08:25 AM
liked the article, though the timing seems odd

CupidStunt
10-01-2006, 08:26 AM
If we continue to suck and Green retires (or even hints at it), Gonzalez is a goner. And I wouldn't blame him one bit.

I don't believe he's the best TE in football, but I still think he could be. But not in the situation he's in. And to top it off, the team isn't winning.

CupidStunt
10-01-2006, 08:28 AM
Gonzo won't mind averaging 6 catches per game, but not for a pathetic 44 yards.

milkman
10-01-2006, 08:33 AM
If we continue to suck and Green retires (or even hints at it), Gonzalez is a goner. And I wouldn't blame him one bit.

I think TG would like to cement his legacy, and I think a part of that legacy, for him, is breaking all of the records in one uniform.

I think he would not only liked to be remembered as a great player, but as a loyal player, as well.

I don't believe he's the best TE in football, but I still think he could be. But not in the situation he's in. And to top it off, the team isn't winning.

I think that's debatable now, but for a period of 5 years or so, I think he was unquestionably the best.

Count Zarth
10-01-2006, 08:43 AM
liked the article, though the timing seems odd

The article was run because of the TD record.

NJ Chief Fan
10-01-2006, 08:46 AM
T-GOAT

CupidStunt
10-01-2006, 08:49 AM
I think that's debatable now, but for a period of 5 years or so, I think he was unquestionably the best.

Absolutely agree. There was never a question in my mind up until the emergence of Gates.

I continued to argue in Gonzalez' corner after the 2004 season when a lot of people were quick to annoint Gates as the best, but it gradually faded to a point where I now consider Gates a level above.

I do happen to think, however, that a significant part of that is because of the opportunity. I think Gonzalez could've matched Gates' 2005 production if he were in the exact same situation.

Wile_E_Coyote
10-01-2006, 08:57 AM
The article was run because of the TD record.

I reckon so. With the state the o-line is in, seems like less Gonzo catching passes & a lot more Gonzo protecting Huard