"I love the unity of this locker room," Gonzalez says. "There's no jerks on this team. There's no cancers on this team. Guys love to come to work, love to compete, love to get better."
Rest assured, getting on the Falcons bandwagon goes against everything I've learned over a lifetime.
Full disclosure: I grew up in Atlanta cheering for the Falcons. It was a largely an exercise in frustration, one losing season running into another, the slightest bit of hope always snuffed out quickly. They weren't lovable like the Chicago Cubs, either. No, they were just bad. Turnovers and missed tackles. Poor coaching and botched draft picks. Gallows humor was about the only thing that got you through. Hey, did you hear about the guy who left two season tickets on the windshield of his car, hoping someone would take them? When he got back, he had four.
The Falcons reached their only Super Bowl during the 1998 season with an entertaining group that called itself the "Dirty Birds." Of course, they found a most unique way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The night before the big game in Miami, safety Eugene Robinson, probably their most respected player, was arrested for trying to buy sex from a woman who turned out to be an undercover cop.
Robinson played anyway. Not surprisingly, he got beat for a long touchdown pass on the game's most crucial play, the Denver Broncos romping to their second straight championship.
But, truth be told, things have changed over the last decade, ever since Arthur Blank bought the team.
Three of the five division titles in franchise's 46-year history have come during the Blank era. Most impressively, the team bounced right back after star quarterback Michael Vick went to prison for running a dogfighting ring. Dimitroff, Smith and Ryan arrived the following year; since then, the Falcons have strung together five straight winning seasons.