FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. Throughout the 2012 NFL season, Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez maintained that he was 95 percent certain he would retire.
If the Falcons had had to replace him, they could have gotten a good tight end in the draft or free agency, but none quite like Gonzalez, the league's all-time leader in receptions by a tight end, and certainly not one who has the near mind-melding chemistry that Gonzalez does with quarterback Matt Ryan.
"I think it would be an understatement to say that it would be hard to replace Tony with someone in the draft or free agency," Falcons head coach Mike Smith said. "He's been such an integral part of our success through the last four years. But he has a great chemistry with Matt and the rest of the football team. He's one of our leaders and you guys who follow us know what he brings out on the field and he does it in the locker room as well.
"When you get a leader and a mentor like that back on your squad, we've gotten a lot better and I t...