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NFL Lockout Could Mean Tony Gonzalez, Todd McClure Retirement If It Cancels Season

I write this headline with every feeling that there will, in fact, be NFL football played in 2011. I believe that after all the posturing, a new deal will be reached and my Sundays will once again be filled with the sounds of America's pastime. But what if I'm wrong? What if the season doesn't happen? Let's play my favorite game, What-If? (That last question mark is part of the game's name and not a third consecutive question which would be ridiculous). Please, follow me through the jump.

A work stoppage that wipes out the entire season could put the careers of two favorite Atlanta Falcons in jeopardy. Todd McClure is 34 years old and in the last year of his deal. With the Falcons stockpiling lineman in the draft, 2011 likely will be McClure's last one as an NFL player. If there's no football this year, could we have seen the last snap of McClure's career? He'd be 35 in 2012 and the Mike Johnson's and Joe Hawley's of the world would be itching for playing time, especially after a wasted season.

The other concern is with Tony Gonzalez. The 35-year old tight end also enters the last year of his deal and has flirted with retirement before. If the two sides can't reach an agreement, could Gonzalez simply walk away? Would he try to come back in 2012 at 36 years old? The only argument against him retiring if the season is canceled is his desire for a championship. If the Falcons stay intact through a year-long work stoppage, he may want to come back at any age to try and win a ring.

I have no doubts there will be professional football played this season. But what if I'm wrong? Could we have seen the last of McClure and Gonzalez? The Falcons are in great shape even with an extended lockout but missing an entire season could provide some unexpected openings at tight end and along the offensive line.

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