Tony Gonzalez said Tuesday that the biggest factor in his decision to return to the Atlanta Falcons for the 2013 season was his 12-year-old son, Nikko, who persuaded him to continue playing rather than retire from the NFL.
In an interview with ESPN's "SportsCenter," the Pro Bowl tight end said the reason he had been leaning toward retiring after last season was the chance to spend more time with his family, but Nikko told him he owed it to himself to take another shot at winning a Super Bowl.
"Really the biggest factor for me to come back this year was my son, Nikko. He doesn't live with me, he lives with his mom and stepdad out in Los Angeles during the football season, and it's been that way his whole life. And I just said, 'You know what, I want to spend more time with my son.' And that was really one of the main reasons I was going to retire," Gonzalez said. "But he was the one who talked me back into it."
Gonzalez, 37, said he also received calls from Falcons owner Arthur Blank, coach Mike Smith and teammates and received "incredible" support from the fans.
"But really it came down to what my little 12-year-old boy said. He said, 'You know what, Dad, you got a great football team, you guys got a chance to go get a Super Bowl,' and he knows that's the only reason I'm playing at this point. So he said go back and try it one more time. So that's why I'm here, that's why I'm going to be coming back," he said.
Gonzalez, who has the most touchdown receptions by a tight end with 103, had eight catches for 72 yards in the Falcons' NFC Championship Game loss to the San Francisco 49ers, including a 10-yard touchdown reception with 25 seconds remaining in the first half. The Falcons didn't score again as Gonzalez was denied his first trip to the Super Bowl.
The Falcons started a mandatory three-day minicamp Tuesday but Gonzalez is absent, with the Falcons' permission.
"Tony has been doing this for a long time," Smith said Tuesday, according to the team's website. "He's 37 years old. There's no reason for Tony not to be ... resting his body and getting ready for the regular season. Our main goal every year is to have our players ready for the first game and each player takes a little different path to get there. Tony's a lot different from these young players that haven't played a whole lot for us."