Chiefs Tight End After Record

Thursday, November 2nd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — On the verge of doing something no other tight end in the NFL has ever done, Tony Gonzalez brings to mind an old coach's favorite definition of greatness: someone who makes everybody around him better.

``He's still so young, but he's got the potential to do just that,'' Kansas City running back Kimble Anders said.

``You want to step up and try to play at his level. He escalates everybody else's game.''

After making All-Pro last year in his third season, the hardworking, 6-foot-4, 250-pounder has made himself even better, even more dominant in an increasingly pass-oriented Kansas City offense. If he gets 100 yards in receptions Sunday at Oakland, he will be the first tight end ever to do it in four consecutive games.

``He can run. He can catch. He can jump,'' said Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon, who was a Kansas City backup when the Chiefs drafted Gonzalez. ``I think the Chiefs knew he would turn out to be a great one.''

In a second straight banner year, Gonzalez is tied for first among NFL tight ends with 41 catches and leads his position with 572 yards and four touchdowns.

The last tight end to go over 100 yards in three straight games was New England's Ben Coats in the first three games of the 1994 season.

While insisting he would gladly go without a single catch as long as the Chiefs win their AFC West showdown against the Raiders, Gonzalez admits the record would be special.

``Yeah, it's a part of history,'' he said. ``All the tight ends who have played the position — Shannon Sharpe, John Mackey — all the great ones. It would definitely mean something. I'll be concentrating on trying to win the game first. But if it happens, I'll be happy for sure.''

The Chiefs have been quick to use his unique talents, often splitting him out wide almost like another wide receiver.

``I don't look at Gonzalez as a tight end,'' Oakland coach Jon Gruden said.

``I don't know what he is. He's more of a wide receiver. To me, a tight end is a guy who plays on the line. But now he's flexed out there on a two-point stance running patterns. He's the most unique guy I've seen. He can play as a wideout in space and function like a small guy. He's got a lot of niftiness and quickness.''

Chiefs safety Jerome Woods enjoys watching Gonzalez in practice.

``He plays just like a big wide receiver out there,'' Woods said. ``It's hard for the linebackers to hold him and it's hard for the safeties to stop him. Even if a safety has good coverage, the guy's so big, he can get in front of you. Since he was such a great basketball player, that carries over to the football field. He boxes them out with that big body.''

Fate probably picked a good game for Gonzalez to go for the record.

In seven games against Oakland, he has punished the Raiders with 26 catches for 392 yards (a 15.1-yard average) and four touchdowns, including a career-long 73-yard scoring play last year in Oakland.

``He's beaten us in man coverage and beaten us in zone concepts,'' Gruden said. ``I don't know what matchups people want to give. I've seen him beat corners, linebackers and safeties. He's a guy we've got to know where he is at all times and get help on him as much as we can.''