Colts WR Anthony Gonzalez Says He's Still Working for Everything
INDIANAPOLIS – Anthony Gonzalez said he's assuming nothing.
Not that he doesn't hear what others are saying about him, how observers analyze how he'll fit into the Colts' lineup this season and how he'll fit into the wide receiver rotation. And yes, Gonzalez said he hears how some believe his role automatically will change.
But Gonzalez said that sort of talk is for outsiders.
He hears it, but he has his own approach.
"I think people have put some assumptions into what's going to happen with this role," Gonzalez said recently during the Colts' 2009 organized activities sessions, which are continuing this week at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
"I'm not taking anything for granted. I'll tell you that."
Gonzalez, the Colts' first-round selection in the 2007 NFL Draft and the No. 32 selection overall that year, never has taken much for granted, Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said recently. At least not since joining the Colts.
"The amazing thing about him is he's improved every single year," Caldwell said. "He came to us with great credentials. He was able to definitely prove he could play in his first year, and play consistently. The following year, he just kept escalating and climbing in terms of the things he's able to do out on the field and his understanding of the game, but he works at it. He's one of those guys who comes early and stays late.
"He's like a gym rat and they tend to get better."
How much has Gonzalez improved?
In his first season, he started nine games and while playing 13 games, he caught 37 passes for 576 yards and three touchdowns. He also caught four passes for 79 yards and a 55-yard touchdown in the Colts' 28-24 loss to San Diego in an AFC Divisional Playoff game.
Last season, while starting just two games, he caught 57 passes for 664 yards and four touchdowns.
This offseason, as Gonzalez prepares for his third season, he said the process is helped by his familiarity with his surroundings – and not just his on-field surroundings.
"It's a completely different animal," Gonzalez said. "My rookie year, I didn't even know anybody. I was just trying to shut up and stay out of the way and hopefully be called upon to do something on the field. This year, kind of building on last year, I think I have some friends on this team and I have great relationships with a lot of the guys on this team and the coaches and just the city in general. I know my way around now. I know where the grocery store is. I know where the dry cleaner is.
"The little things that people don't think of I think are probably the most imant, the comfort level – not necessarily comfortable in what we've done or what I've done, but just kind of comfortable within your own skin in the building – I think that's important in a lot of ways."
Said Caldwell, "I think he has a real good sense of our system and a real good sense of his surroundings. There's no guesswork. He's the kind of guy who doesn't like surprises. He functions much better in that atmosphere."
The atmosphere in which Gonzalez and the rest of the Colts' offense is different this offseason. Eight-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Marvin Harrison, a starter since 1996 and the NFL's second all-time leading receiver, was released this past February for salary cap reasons, and for the first time since 2002, Reggie Wayne and Harrison won't open the season as the starting wide-receiver tandem.
"It will be a lot different, just from a personal standpoint," Gonzalez said. "From a football standpoint, obviously, it will be different. We did kind of have a spell two years ago where he wasn't around while, so maybe that helps us kind of deal with that. But just not having him in the building – that will be weird for me.
"He kind of took me under his wing in a lot of ways. Not having him around, for me personally, it's going to stink. It's like losing one of your good friends."
Gonzalez started extensively in 2007 at outside receiver when Harrison missed 11 games with a knee injury. With Harrison no longer on the roster, many observers have assumed that Gonzalez automatically will move to Harrison's former position.
Still, Gonzalez said he just doesn't see it quite so simply.
"My approach is going to work as hard as I ever have and try to earn whatever extra reps I happen to get," he said. "I don't plan on being given anything. I'm definitely not expecting to be given anything. That's the approach I'm taking. I'm trying to put my nose down and keep working."