It is May, and the middle of organized team activities, and Larry Fitzgerald is doing just fine, thank you.
No, he doesn’t feel like he did 15 years ago, but “I feel good,” the wide receiver said. There are no aches and pains, no lingering injuries. And no, he doesn’t know what his NFL future holds after this season.
Whenever it does come, though, Fitzgerald said he’s not going to announce it to reporters standing in front of him, whether it is the pair chatting with him Tuesday or the bigger group that had departed a few minutes earlier. That’s not his style. He’d rather go all Keyser Söze.
“I’m going to sneak right out the back door,” Fitzgerald said.
But that’s a conversation – or, rather, a non-conversation – for another day. Now, Fitzgerald plugs away like the rest
of the Cardinals in OTAs, getting a chance to work with quarterback Carson Palmer (who was doing full work after resting most of the offseason) and preparing for what will be his 14th season.
There has been high praise for the entirety of the Cardinals’ wide receiver depth, including from Fitzgerald himself. John “Smokey” Brown looks to have fully returned from his health issues. But there is little question the group lines up behind their veteran, who led the NFL in receptions with 107 in his 13th season.
Earlier, with a group of reporters surrounding him for the first (and perhaps only) time of the offseason, Fitzgerald talked about the help he had received in the past from other NFL greats, and how he’s trying to pass it along to teammates – and beyond.
When Fitzgerald was a ballboy with the Minnesota Vikings, he watched Anthony Carter guide Cris Carter, and then Carter guide Jake Reed and Randy Moss and even Fitzgerald himself. When Fitzgerald first got into the league, he’d hear from guys like Torry Holt and Marshall Faulk and Shannon Sharpe. Terrell Owens would watch tape with Fitzgerald in the offseason.
“I can name 100 guys who called me on my phone, ‘Fitz, I saw you play last week, you need to do a better job getting out of this break,’ ” Fitzgerald said. “Not in a way to be demeaning, just to help me. They didn’t have to do that.”
It’s a different NFL than it was some 20 years ago. Fitzgerald acknowledges such. Once upon a time, he had veterans
telling him not to talk so much with opponents. Fitzgerald shrugged it off.
“You can exchange pleasantries but the next time we line up against each other I’m still coming to take your head off,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s no different. It doesn’t diminish my competitive spirit at all.”
Now, with social media and players holding so many charity events, players on different teams get to know each other better. So Fitzgerald talks to Odell Beckham, Demaryius Thomas, DeAndre Hopkins, Antonio Brown and A.J. Green. Sometimes, they will pick Fitzgerald’s brain. Sometimes, it’s just to keep in touch and see how they are doing.
Fitzgerald doesn’t ignore his own locker room either. He’s aware of the work the other receivers are putting in, all the way down to tryout signee Larry Clark. (Fitzgerald noted with a grin that when he hears coaches saying Larry needs to run a play better, Fitzgerald says to Clark, “Look, we’ve got a high standard for Larrys in this room.”)
Beyond 2017, there is uncertainty about Fitzgerald’s football future. But we’re not beyond 2017 yet.
“That stuff means a lot to me,” Fitzgerald said. “I want to be a resource for the younger guys. If they have questions for me, I want to be somebody they can have to rely on, so they can reach their goals like I reached mine.”