After saying he was 95% certain the 2012 NFL season would be his last, the Falcons' tight end is coming back for his 17th year. Gonzo had 93 catches and eight touchdowns in '12.

DAN PATRICK:When did you realize you weren't done?

TONY GONZALEZ: After we lost [the NFC Championship Game to the 49ers], I was done. When I went to the facility to say goodbye, I gave everyone a big ol' hug and thanked them. I was walking out of that door a free man. Then the talk about coming back started up, but I needed confirmation from my [12-year-old] son, Nikko. I wanted to spend way more time with him. Once he said, "Dad, you guys came really close ..." it was a no-brainer for me to come back.

DP:What if Nikko had said, "Stay home, Dad"?

TG: I would have been done. I told him that I'm going to be there to watch you play padded football, and I plan on being there still. I may not be able to see the whole season, but I'll be there at the beginning. Hopefully, it doesn't interfere with training camp, but if it does, we're going to have to work something out.

DP:Did Nikko say one year or two?

TG: He meant one year because that's all I'm doing. There is no more 95, 97%. I am 100% this will be my last season.

DP:On the last play from scrimmage in the loss to the 49ers, you looked like you expected Matt Ryan to throw you the ball.

TG: You have to understand, we have really good players on this team. So when he chooses to go the other way, I don't get upset. You can look back in hindsight and say, [I was] open. The quarterback position is hard. I talked to Matt extensively about that play. Some things broke down. That's stuff we've got to work on. Hopefully, next time if we're in that position, we'll make that play.

DP:You played basketball at Cal. What did you think of the Rutgers videotape?

TG: It's ridiculous. I'm glad [coach Mike Rice] got fired. That holds no place in any sport. To demean someone like that and throw the basketball like that and hurl slurs. I feel bad for those kids because obviously they felt helpless. If that happened to me, I'd pick that ball up and throw it right back at that coach or worse. There's no way this man should ever coach again.

DP:Does that kind of bullying happen in football?

TG: Those days are over. You can still yell—I don't care about that. But when you get physical and put hands on people or start demeaning people.... There's a line and [Rice] stepped over that line clearly.

DP:Were there any draft scouting reports of you that weren't accurate back in 1997?

TG: Mel Kiper Jr. said I fumbled the ball too often after I caught the ball. I had two fumbles in three years at Cal. Everything gets thrown around this time of year. Can the guy play? Turn on the film.

DP:Tape doesn't lie.

TG: Tape doesn't lie. People make a big deal out of analyzing the draft. I don't care how much you bench-press—you still can't guard me.

"People get to see him when he's on TV or on a [computer] screen. If you saw him in everyday life [you'd realize] that he's not this malicious monster. Not only was he my coach, he's one of my friends. I'm just appreciative of what he's done for me academically."

—AUSTIN JOHNSON, Rutgers senior forward, on former coach Mike Rice



Driver Denny Hamlin speculated on the reaction of NASCAR executives after his March 24 crash with Joey Logano at the Auto Club 400. "They probably smiled behind closed doors," said Hamlin, who is out six weeks with a compression fracture in his back. "Rivalries are what NASCAR is built on, and they're starting to get that back." ... With motivational tactics a hot topic, UCLA's Steve Alford told me why playing for Bobby Knight at Indiana wasn't hard for him. "Coach Knight wanted you to be better than what you wanted to be," Alford said. "I can remember having great games [on Saturday], and Monday would be the practice he'd be hardest on me." ... I asked Wes Welker why Tom Brady couldn't get the Patriots to re-sign him. "I don't think Tom makes decisions like that," Welker said. "Actually, I know he doesn't. He wants what's best for the team, and he knows that [coach Bill Belichick] does that." ... Dale Earnhardt Jr. revealed how his spotter fires him up during a race: "He'll tell me the Redskins are winning or I'm beating the hell out of someone in fantasy football."