Gonzalez for real in a fantasy world


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Jan 22, 2006
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Gonzalez for real in a fantasy world
The Kansas City Star

RIVER FALLS, Wis. | Fantasy football is not my thing. People often ask: “What running back do you think I should take in the 12th round?” or “Who do you think will end up with more tackles, Lance Briggs or Gibril Wilson?” I know nothing about it.
But I will give you a little free fantasy football advice, and you can decide whether to use it. Here you go: Find a way to draft Tony Gonzalez. Call it a feeling.

“Some of these young tight ends are talking trash, you know?” Gonzalez says. He smiles and leaves the rest unspoken. Tony Gonzalez is 30 years old. He’s rich. He’s famous. He’s Hollywood huge. He’s been to seven Pro Bowls. So what’s left? Two things. Gonzalez wants to win a Super Bowl. And he wants to show those young tight ends — and everyone else — that he’s the greatest tight end to ever play professional football. It’s legacy time.

Gonzalez figures he has four years to make that legacy real. Five at most.

“My best years are coming,” he says. I think he’s right. Sure, he’s already had huge statistical years. He caught 102 passes in 2004. He’s gone for more than 1,200 yards twice — no other tight end has done that. He has more touchdown catches right now than any tight end already in the Hall of Fame.

But I think he might just have his biggest season. Why? Call it a feeling. And look at this team. The receivers are, well, let’s call them “inexperienced.” The quarterback, Trent Green, is one of the most accurate passers in the NFL. The coach, Herm Edwards, wants an offense that controls the clock and overpowers defenses. The running back, Larry Johnson, is perhaps the most feared offensive player in football.

Add all that up, and what do you get? I think you get a 6-foot-5 tight end with suction-cup hands running free behind the charging linebackers and making catch after catch in the heart of the defense.

I bounce my theory off of Gonzalez. He seems pretty happy with it.

“Yeah, I think I’m going to be a bigger part of things,” he says. “I mean, not to sound brash or anything, but it is our best interest to make me a big part of this offense, right? I think I’ve proven that I can help the Chiefs win. It just makes sense, right?”

It does make sense. Gonzalez is still a bit miffed about last season. He had another Pro Bowl season — 78 catches, 905 yards — but he caught only two touchdown passes, the fewest since his second season in the NFL. He wants more touchdowns, for the team, for himself; he wants touchdowns because he believes he should score touchdowns.

Gonzalez felt that Al Saunders, the old offensive coordinator, was obviously great at his job but he was always trying to trick defenses. He would never call the same play twice; often he wouldn’t call the same play in a month. Teams were expecting Gonzalez to get the ball around the end zone, which is precisely why the Chiefs did not throw to him.

Gonzalez has a different philosophy.

“My philosophy is, ‘Do your thing and make the defense stop you,’ ” Gonzalez says. He’s lucky because that’s precisely the way the new coaches feel, too. He won’t be a decoy under Herm Edwards. At one point after practice, Gonzalez came up to Edwards to ask about a play when rookie defensive end Tamba Hali beat Gonzalez to the quarterback.

Gonzalez: “I looked at the video. Do you think he beat me?” Edwards: “Oh, yeah, he beat you. Guy’s pretty good, isn’t he?” Gonzalez: “You sure he beat me?” Edwards: “He beat you. But that’s not your job. That’s not your job. Your job is to catch touchdown passes.”

Gonzalez laughed. It’s no wonder Edwards is so beloved by players. Herm knows just the right things to say.

“It’s nothing against coach (Dick) Vermeil or coach Saunders or any of those other guys, because we had success with them,” Gonzalez says. “But there’s no doubt that there’s some new excitement now about this team. There’s a new energy. We feel like we’re all pulling in the same direction.

“This is the best team I’ve ever been a part of. We have at least four guys on defense who could go to the Pro Bowl this year. … And we still have the offense. We’re going to score points. This is the year. I can feel that.”

Yes, he’s thinking playoffs and the Super Bowl. But along the way, sure, Gonzalez would like to send a clear message to tight ends — Jeremy Shockey, Vernon Davis, Alge Crumpler, Kellen Winslow and especially San Diego’s Antonio Gates — that he is still supreme. People have started to talk about those other tight ends, and he doesn’t like it.

“Ask the coaches,” Gonzalez says. “Ask the players. Ask anyone. I’m in the best shape of my life. I’m smarter and more experienced. Yeah, I think this is going to be a big year. Ask anyone.” Ask anyone? OK, I go to ask Chiefs president/CEO/general manager/wine steward Carl Peterson if Gonzalez will have a big year. Peterson says: “Oh, yes. I think the way we’ll be on offense, the way defenses will have to defend our running game, the way he’s played in camp, yes, absolutely, I think he will have an incredible year.”

So there you have it. If you are in a fantasy football league, you won’t want to let Gonzalez go past the second or third round …

“One other thing,” Peterson says.

What’s that?

“It’s also a contract year.”

Contract year? Call it a feeling. You better draft him even higher.
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