NFL.com's Jason La Canfora reported on Nov. 20 that there was a “chance” the long-awaited return of Anthony Gonzalez could happen by Week 12. That’s right, after being out for basically the whole season, “Gonzo” could be back for the showdown between the Colts and the Texans next Sunday.
Obviously, Jason didn’t read the Mike Chappell piece from the INDYSTAR written on the same day. Had he read that piece, he might not have been so quick to do any reporting that day.
Here is what “Gonzo” had to say about his status: "I felt like I was close the last time," Gonzalez said. "So in that sense, it's a little hard to say. I do feel the 'scope I had helped a lot. Now it's just a matter of getting a little flexibility back and all my strength back. But I think I'm close."
Jim Caldwell, on the Sirius Blitz this morning, further backed up what Chappell reported. When asked about “Gonzalez,” he said the same thing he’s been saying for weeks. Caldwell is seeing improvement and thinks he’s “close” to returning, but he can’t give a date.
Before we go any further, let’s pause, and reflect on what “close” means. Close doesn’t mean in game shape and ready to play.
Once “Gonzo” gets his strength back, he’s going to have to go out, make it through a week of practice, and practice well to even be considered close to playing in an actual game.
“Close” right now means close to returning to practice. Then, when he does return to practice, he’s going to have to develop timing and rhythm with Peyton all over again.
Ten weeks without playing is like years in pro-football. If Peyton doesn’t think Anthony is ready for gameday, then Anthony isn’t playing come gameday.
Another thing to factor into this whole discussion: Peyton only has so much time to devote each week to the wide receivers. How much time is Peyton going to spend with “Gonzo” when he knows that, even if he does play, it’s going to be very limited?
Don’t think for a minute that the majority of the time Peyton allocates to his receivers is going to go to the Colts’ two new emerging stars: Garcon and Collie. Sorry “Gonzo,” that’s just how it goes.
The reality is it’s going to take weeks once “Gonzo” returns to the practice field for him and Peyton to get on the same page again. It’s not like they have been playing together for years, like Reggie and Peyton have, and even between Reggie and Peyton, it still would take some hard work to re-establish the chemistry that they share.
The sad truth for Anthony Gonzalez is he got hurt in what was supposed to be his breakout year and got replaced by a guy who, frankly, is better.
If “Gonzo” can return this season, he’ll be backing up Garcon at best.
Garcon is bigger, stronger, and faster than Gonzalez. Going into the playoffs, teams may find themselves facing a receiving corps as deep as the 2008 New England Patriots, and Gonzo might find himself on the outside looking in.