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He talked about missing quality time with his kids but also feeling grateful to former teammates and coaches in Kansas City and those he’s worked with in Atlanta the last five years.

“I know I could come back and play a couple of more years if I wanted to, but it’s time for me to go,” Gonzalez said. “It’s time for me to get back to my family, get back to California, where I’m from and explore that next chapter of my life. I’m going to have fun with it.”

Television work is a possibility for Gonzalez, but playing football might not be out of the question.

The Falcons, after all, signed him to a two-year, $14 million contract last March, and if they get off to a strong start next season, Gonzalez might reconsider, but he stopped short of saying that he plans to file retirement papers with the NFL.

Then again, the aches and pains of a 16-game season aren’t getting easier, this despite the Falcons’ allowing him to miss over three weeks of training camp and preseason games last summer.

“Like I said, don’t anybody ever feel bad for me,” Gonzalez said, smiling. “The things I’ve accomplished in my career are more than anybody ever deserves.”

With one full day remaining before Atlanta (4-11) hosts the playoff-bound Carolina Panthers (11-4), Gonzalez is eager to go out with a victory.

He had a good ride with the Falcons in his first four years, helping the team go 45-19 and win his first playoff game last January.

But after narrowly beating Seattle in the divisional round, Atlanta fell 10 yards short against San Francisco in the NFC title game.

“You never know when it can come to an end, and that’s always been my approach,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve never said that I’ve arrived with my accomplishments. I’ve never, ever said that that’s good enough for me or I’ve caught enough balls to last a lifetime. I always wanted to keep working and keep working in case this is it, and now that I’m coming into my last one, I’m glad I’ve done it that way.

“It worked out, and hopefully I’ll carry those habits into my next career, whatever that is.”

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