Someday, obviously, Larry Fitzgerald will play in his last NFL game. Whether that game is Sunday, when his beleaguered Arizona Cardinals play at Seattle, is anybody’s guess.
And don’t expect any hints from him. He doesn’t like to talk about it.
“I haven’t even thought about it,” Fitzgerald said after the Cardinals practiced on Thursday. “I’m just focused on trying to get this win in Seattle.”
The week before, he’d said, rather impatiently, “You know me. I’ve been answering for the last three years. Nothing’s going to change,” he said. “If I decide to retire, I’ll let you guys know. Man, seriously. So, I don’t understand why we keep asking these questions.”
The answer would be because he’s 35 years old, played 15 seasons in the NFL and has accumulated statistics that place him among the best to play the game.
Certainly Fitzgerald seems physically capable of continuing beyond this season.
“I believe from an ability standpoint there’s very few people that can do what Larry does,” Cardinals offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said.
“That’s just honest. When the ball comes in his direction, when it’s time to make the play, he’s one of the best to ever do it.”
Leftwich said he’s never seen a better pair of hands on a receiver, although he acknowledged that might tick off Randy Moss.
Fitzgerald is remarkably durable. He’s caught a pass in 226 consecutive games. Sunday will mark his 234th NFL game, all with the Cardinals, tying the franchise record set by kicker Jim Bakken, who played from 1962-78.
With 14 yards receiving, he’ll top 2,000 yards receiving against the Seahawks. Fitzgerald’s already topped that mark against the Rams and 49ers, so he would join Jerry Rice as the only receivers to accomplish that feat against three teams.
Last week, in an otherwise ugly loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Fitzgerald threw his first career TD pass, a nifty 32-yarder to David Johnson.
Now, though, he finds himself on a 3-12 team that ranks last in the NFL in offense with a rookie quarterback in Josh Rosen and all the inconsistencies that brings. Fitzgerald has 65 catches for 698 yards and five touchdowns. Decent stats for anyone else, but in the previous three years, Fitzgerald caught 109, 107 and 109 passes.
So why keep playing? In terms of wins and losses, this will be the worst record of any of his 15 Cardinals teams, no matter what happens on Sunday in Seattle.
Yet he said he still loves his job.
“I can’t think of anything I don’t like about it,” he said. “The grind is great, man. It’s part of it. You can’t do what you do on Sunday without the practices and lifting the weights and watching the film and doing all the studying and the preparation. You can’t go out there and execute if you don’t put the time in.”
But those losses keep piling up.
“Hard work doesn’t guarantee results,” Fitzgerald said. “But it ensures that you’re prepared to go out there and play, and that’s my thing. I step on that field there’s no guarantees of anything but I know I’m prepared to play. I know my assignments, I know what I need to execute. It’s your will against the other man you’re competing against.”
Fitzgerald, if he returns, may be dealing with another coaching change. He’s voiced his support for Steve Wilks, who looks to be on shaky ground at the end of his first season as coach.
As for Wilks, he said he’s just blessed to coach a player such as Fitzgerald.
“I think about that daily just being around him, to be honest with you,” Wilks said. “Last week, I walked up to him, and here’s a Thursday practice, and he’s diving for a ball in the end zone. A guy with 15 years in the league. I try to reference that with the young guys, particularly Christian (Kirk) when he was still here practicing daily. You’ve got a great example and a mentor to really pattern your life after — not just football, but life.
“Larry’s just one of the best.”
Source: The Associated Press