At 37, Tony Gonzalez must use his heart and body as a guide to whether or not he should return. Otherwise, he is just setting up for a disappointing end to an otherwise stellar career.
The Falcons are reportedly trying to influence his decision. ESPN's Ed Werder, after talking to sources, reports that the Falcons are "exerting tremendous pressure" on the legendary tight end to return for a 17th NFL season.
Werder also adds that now Gonzalez is "wavering from his intention to retire for the first time."
The Falcons' intentions are certainly understandable. Gonzalez proved his tremendous value last season as he helped bring the Falcons a few plays away from reaching the Super Bowl.
The 13-time Pro Bowler went for 930 yards on 93 catches and eight touchdowns last season. These are the best numbers in all three categories since joining the Falcons in 2009.
Combine Gonzalez's presence down the seam and in the middle with Roddy White and Julio Jones on the outside, and the Falcons' passing offense was nearly unstoppable.
Having Gonzalez in the fold for next year would be a great asset to the team and leave them with one less hole to fill.
Gonzalez can't let any of this play into his decision. For starters, he has certainly earned that right.
For his career, Gonzalez has 107 touchdown receptions and 14,268 receiving yards—both records for tight ends, and he has put up these numbers while handling himself as a true professional and with maximum effort.
However, this is not the biggest reason. If Gonzalez needs to be talked into this decision, it is not the right one for him to make.
Will Gonzalez play another down in the NFL?
It is going to take a lot of hard work and dedication for Gonzalez, who will be 38 at the start of next season, to prepare for another year. Then it's going to take a lot of heart for him to make it through the season, and if his heart isn't truly in it, Gonzalez will be setting himself up for failure.
In the end, all of this is insignificant if Gonzalez's body isn't up to the task. First and foremost, he must get his answer to this retirement question from his battered body.
While Gonzalez came up just short of reaching the Super Bowl, he had a tremendous year and it would be a fitting end to a great career. He mustn't let outside pressure determines if that will be his swan song or not.