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Tony Gonzalez Climbing NFL Record Lists: How Far Can He Go?

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Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez pulled down four catches on Sunday, giving him 1,104 for his career and sole possession of No. 2 on the NFL's all-time catches list behind Jerry Rice. He's not going to overtake Rice unless he plays for darn near another decade -- he trails by 445 at the moment, or about six years worth of the production he's already put up in Atlanta. (Then again, Rice had six more decent seasons left in him when he was Gonzalez' current age.)

But here's a look at how much of a move he could make if he's able to finish this season healthy and come back for one more year. Reasonable, since he's missed one game since 1999 and none since 2006 yet pondered retirement after last season.

Gonzalez has averaged 4.8 catches per game as a Falcon. If he can play nine more games this year and 16 next year at that pace, he'd retire with 120 more catches -- 1,224 for his career, and only 325 behind Rice.

As for yardage, he passed Irving Fryar on Sunday to move to No. 13:

Rank Player (age), + - HOFer, Bold - Active Yds Years Teams
1. Jerry Rice+ 22,895  1985-2004  3TM
2. Terrell Owens (37) 15,934  1996-2010  5TM
3. Isaac Bruce 15,208  1994-2009  2TM
4. Tim Brown 14,934  1988-2004  2TM
5. Randy Moss (33) 14,858  1998-2010  4TM
6. Marvin Harrison 14,580  1996-2008  clt
7. James Lofton+ 14,004  1978-1993  5TM
8. Cris Carter 13,899  1987-2002  3TM
9. Henry Ellard 13,777  1983-1998  3TM
10. Torry Holt 13,382  1999-2009  2TM
11. Andre Reed 13,198  1985-2000  2TM
12. Steve Largent+ 13,089  1976-1989  sea
13. Tony Gonzalez (34) 12,843  1997-2011  2TM
14. Irving Fryar 12,785  1984-2000  4TM

He's averaged 49 yards per game in his 39 games in Atlanta. If he kept up that pace through 2011 and 2012, he'd land at 14,068 yards, good for seventh place all-time and 4,008 better than the nearest tight end, Shannon Sharpe. Jason Witten is the active tight end with the best chance to make a run -- the 28-year-old has 7,416 yards -- but should still come up well short.

Rank Player (age), + - HOFer, Bold - Active TD Years Teams
1. Jerry Rice+ 197  1985-2004  3TM
2. Randy Moss (33) 153  1998-2010  4TM
Terrell Owens (37) 153  1996-2010  5TM
4. Cris Carter 130  1987-2002  3TM
5. Marvin Harrison 128  1996-2008  clt
6. Tim Brown 100  1988-2004  2TM
Steve Largent+ 100  1976-1989  sea
8. Don Hutson+ 99  1935-1945  gnb
9. Tony Gonzalez (34) 92  1997-2011  2TM

Likewise, Gonzalez has put up .4 touchdowns per game in Atlanta, or almost a touchdown every other game. If he can maintain that pace through 2012, he'll score 10 more, putting him at No. 6 all-time. The nearest tight end is 30-year-old Antonio Gates, who has 69.

If he's able to play five whole seasons for the Falcons, he'd also make a mark on Atlanta's own record books. Using the numbers above, Gonzalez would rank No. 6 among all Falcons in catches. That's just behind Alge Crumpler, who was here for the first seven years of his career.

His yardage total could land somewhere around 4,969 (No. 5 behind Andre Rison), and he could finish with 26 touchdowns (No. 8 behind Wallace Francis).

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.