Ring not the thing for Chiefs TE Gonzalez

RIVER FALLS, Wis. (AP) -The reality set in for Tony Gonzalez long ago. He has stopped worrying his achievements will be overlooked if he never plays in the Super Bowl.

It's hard to ignore what the Kansas City Chiefs tight end has already accomplished.

He has caught more passes (820) and touchdowns (66) and been selected to more Pro Bowls (nine) than any other tight end. Now, still strong and frisky at 32, he heads into his 12th season just 179 yards away from another major record: the tight end mark for career yards receiving.

The only thing he's missing is a title, and the Chiefs may be further away from championship caliber than they've ever been since Gonzalez left the University of California in 1997 as a first-round draft choice.

"I can't dwell on the past. It's over, there's nothing I can do about it," Gonzalez said. "We didn't go to the playoffs. We didn't win the Super Bowl. If that's how I end my career, that's not going to take away anything as far as me feeling proud of what I've done, the friendships that I've established while I've been in the league, guys that are like brothers. It's been an unbelievable experience."

The Chiefs are beginning a massive top-to-bottom rebuilding effort. It's a project that may reach fruition too late for Gonzalez, who may have only two years left. He says he's 95 percent sure he'll play next season.

"Then after that, who knows what's going to happen?" Gonzalez said.

The Chiefs have about 15 players in camp who are 22 or under and 49 on the training camp roster who are in their first year with the team. Gonzalez admits he was upset when coach Herm Edwards decided to purge most of his veterans after ending the 2007 season on a nine-game losing streak.

"At first I was frustrated with it. I was a little angry, to tell you the truth," he said. "I'm winding down in my career and I'm thinking this is not what I signed on for last year when I redid my (contract). But after seeing the guys they brought in and after the draft, it's making lot more sense. I'm realizing that we're a pretty good football team. There's no doubt about it."

He's come to see himself as an elder statesman on a team that's bubbling with fuzzy-cheeked youth.

Always a hard-worker, he still devours self-help and motivation books. He's currently reading biographies of both Barack Obama and John McCain.

And when he's not in the rotation during rugged training camp drills, he frequently jogs a few yards downfield behind teammates who are resting while waiting their turn. Away from the crowd, he has someone throw pass after pass to him until it's time to rejoin the group.

"You see somebody like Tony who's been here that long and achieved as much as he's done, and there he is doing all the little things - what else can you say about him?" said Brad Cottam, a rookie tight end the Chiefs hope one day may take Gonzalez' place.

"I watch him constantly. I want to do the things he's doing."

Being a team leader is a role Gonzalez has learned to enjoy.

"I'm going to ask them questions about their lives," he said. "I want to get to know them. I want to enjoy this, especially these last two years.

"Just enjoy yourself, stay in the moment, forget about what's gone on around here. Last year is over. This is a totally new year, a fresh start. That's refreshing to me.

"For me, it's getting better and better. I really am enjoying myself a lot more than usual. I wish I would have had this mentality earlier. But it's never too late."

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