Gonzalez can take the heat

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. --- Tony Gonzalez is doing his best to get through another training camp.


Even 5-yard hitch patterns Thursday seemed too demanding, not just for the star tight end, but for most of the Atlanta Falcons' skill players in the North Georgia heat.

"Anybody who says they look forward to this is crazy in my book, and there are some guys out there that are crazy," Gonzalez said.

"You enjoy yourself in the off-season, but it's time to get back to work."

As he's done over the past two weeks in his first camp with Atlanta after 12 seasons in Kansas City, Gonzalez routinely beat pass coverage and placed precise blocks on linebackers and other defenders.

The 10-time Pro Bowl pick only smiles when asked if he dislikes training camp, partly because he's already and expectedly made a positive first impression.

Gonzalez also knows, however, that you can't underestimate the value of practicing correctly in the NFL.

"I've been around a long time," he said. "I've seen great teams on paper. I played on some really good teams out there in Kansas City, and we really weren't able to put it together. Right now, we've got a lot of talent on this team, and they're coming off a great season. We aren't going to catch anybody by surprise, so it's important that we work hard and prepare."

The 33-year-old Gonzalez agreed to a trade from the Chiefs so he could join quarterback Matt Ryan, running back Michael Turner and wideout Roddy White to give himself a chance to make a deep playoff run.

No Atlanta defender is brazen enough to challenge Gonzalez, whose status as the NFL's career leader in catches, yards receiving and touchdown receptions for a tight end has kept him off limits during camp.

"He's one of those guys, that I can promise you, nobody on our defense is going to mess with a man like that," said first-year Falcons linebacker Mike Peterson.

Gonzalez is among many other Falcons veterans who rarely practice twice a day, and during the season, coach Mike Smith's rules stay the same.

Smith routinely keeps veterans such as John Abraham, Brian Finneran and Peterson on the sideline. Smith did the same last season with veterans Keith Brooking and Lawyer Milloy.

"They only make me go one a day," Gonzalez said. "That's one of the perks of being an old guy. (Camp is) never easy and never something you can totally prepare for. But it's part of the business whether you agree with it or not. We're out here. We're trying to get better and just trying to make our mark and hopefully it'll pay off."



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