There have many been many times this season when Tony Gonzalez has been asked about the highlight of his 17-year, coming-to-and-end career.
When former 49ers coach Steve Mariucci, now at NFL Network, asked Gonzalez, the heady player didn’t articulate a specific answer.
Turned out his career highlight wasn’t a highlight at all.
It occurred to Gonzalez that consistency has mattered to him most. The Kansas City Chief-turned-Atlanta Falcon pass-catcher has averaged 77 catches and 883 yards per campaign.
“I think that’s what great players do,” Gonzalez said. “They ball every year.”
Which brings us to
When Davis’ 49ers host Gonzalez’s Falcons in the final regular season game at Candlestick Park on “Monday Night Football,” two of the NFL’s best – and most consistent – tight ends meet on the field for the final time.
Davis, eight years Gonzalez’s junior, has averaged 49 receptions and 645 yards in his first eight pro seasons. He recorded his 12th touchdown of 2013 last week, making him the only end in league history to record two dozen-or-more-scores years.
“He’s got a great scheme out there. He scores a lot of touchdowns; they use him,” Gonzalez told Bay Area reporters on a conference call on Thursday morning. “He’s always impressed me ever since he came out with his athletic ability… It’s unparalleled in the NFL.
“Nobody is as fast as him, and his explosiveness is incredible. It took him a while to get going in the league, but once he got going, he’s a threat every time he’s out on the field. He’s like a receiver playing tight end.”
Watch Gonzalez over the years and you might not say the same thing. He knows how to get open even if he doesn’t have the sheer speed of Davis.
“A future Hall of Fame player, and does not look like a guy that’s playing his final year,” Jim Harbaugh said Thursday. “So he’s very much a top-notch competitor.”
Does San Francisco’s coach see Gonzalez and Davis along the same level?
“Well, you hate to compare him to other tight ends,” Harbaugh said of Davis. “He’s the kind of tight end that blocks at the highest level, and has speed of the highest level, and catching ability, the ability to get open. He’s an all-tool tight end, which is rare.”
“He makes plays,” Kaepernick said. “That’s the biggest thing to say about Vernon.”
Davis, and some of the league's other top ends, will be taking the torn come January.
Gonzalez, at 37, has announced this will be his final season despite the fact that he believes he could play until he’s 40. He has designs on spending more time with his three children in southern California.
The Torrance, Calif. native and University of California product looks forward then to his last game in the Bay Area, his last game at Candlestick Park and his second-to-last game in the NFL. Twenty family members and friends will be at The ‘Stick on Monday.
“For me, it’s now or never. I’m taking everything with urgency,” he said. “Looking back on it, this is it.”