Eric Wilbur's Sports Blog

A Salivating Thought, But Quit Daydreaming About Tony Gonzalez on the Patriots


Maybe CBS knew what it was getting into when it hired former Atlanta and Kansas City tight end Tony Gonzalez to become part of “The NFL Today.” Maybe it didn’t, although more often than not, athletes who are often asked to commentate on the game so soon after retirement are often a risk, both because they’re still too close to the players in the game that they may need to call out and, what may be Gonzalez’s case, probably still possess the itch to suit up and play.

But it’s a gamble worth taking with Gonzalez, who is intelligent, articulate, and easy on the eyes. Unfortunately for CBS, he’s probably still one hell of a tight end as well.

"I've had teams ask me to come back and play for them,'' Gonzalez told Newsday this week in the same interview in which he predicted the Denver Broncos would go undefeated. "I won't name those teams, but I'm happily retired, so I'm not even thinking about it. I'm looking forward to getting to work with these guys from CBS.’'

Gonzalez might not name those teams, but we can assume one; the New England Patriots.

Clearly the Pats could use a guy like Gonzalez, who at age 37 caught 83 balls for the Falcons last season. He never had fewer than 70 catches in any season of his 17-year career, and his All-Pro performances in his twilight leave no doubt that he still would have something left to contribute on a team, particularly on a team where he wouldn’t need to be the featured pass-catching tight end. Beyond Rob Gronkowski, a wild card of immeasurable talent until his next freak injury, New England’s depth at tight end is a valid concern. Aaron Hernandez is in jail, Michael Hoomanawanui has more letters in his name than he does career receptions, and Zach Sudfeld’s pumpkin now resides in East Rutherford, N.J.

Indeed, a dynamic tight end duo of Gronkowski and Gonzalez is a salivating thought too delicious to let go.

Let it go.

Quit daydreaming, folks.

Let’s face it, if Gonzalez were going to join the Patriots, he’d already be here by now. The fact that the tight end never filed retirement papers in the spring is an interesting wrinkle, but the Falcons cut him back in March, only a few weeks after CBS announced his new gig with the network. In a Brett Favre world of indecision, he’d be here next week. Taking a Junior Seau path, sometime by midseason.

But it’s not as easy a highway for Gonzalez to just up and move to New England as it was for the late Seau. Gonzalez’s gig is pretty high-profile, one that’s not exactly conducive to him simply “biding his time.” Look, we all know how deeply in bed CBS is with the Kraft family, but even so, such a maneuver seems like it’s assuming too much.

"The temptation would be there, but I don't know what the gain would be,'' Gonzalez said. "I've always wanted a ring. That's been my main goal as a player over the last 15 years of my career. You're really trying to get that ultimate goal.

"But I'd be a mercenary to come in and get a Super Bowl ring, play with a team for, what, six, seven weeks? And even if I got the ring, it wouldn't be the same as going through the fight with the team from the beginning to the end. I don't think that will happen. The temptation will be there, but I'm 100- percent happy with my decision.

"I was able to walk away from the game on my own terms. Not a lot of players get a chance to do that. I'm very fortunate to do that. I wouldn't want to go back on that good luck.''
 If it weren’t for Gonzalez’s job at CBS, we’d line this up as jabber hogwash, but Gonzalez picked up a cushy gig right after hanging them up. He’s not breaking down fantasy running backs for ESPN3, he’s going to be on the highly-rated pre-game show with James Brown, Boomer Esiason, Bill Cowher, and…yes, one Bart Scott, who might have a thing or two to say to Gonzalez should the thought of playing for the Patriots ever come up in show meetings.

Of course, all of this is nothing new. Gonzalez’s name has been attached to the Patriots with rumors ever since his waning days in a Falcons uniform. After all, 17 years is a long time to play the game without winning a ring, and if you’re looking for one before you do indeed call it a career, where better to go than a team that - albeit, one that hasn’t won one in 10 year - is on the cusp of winning the Super Bowl annually? But it’s just as much a reality now as it was then.

Tony Gonzalez is not joining the New England Patriots, now, in October, or for the stretch run post-Thanksgiving. Unless this is all a ruse by CBS to drum up ratings for a sweeps period of “Will Tony or won’t he?” in which Gonzlaez keeps viewers on edge before potentially announcing to which team he’s headed….

Wait, that’s exactly what they’re doing, isn’t it? Man. Gronk and Gonzo. That’s going to be sick.

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