Whether you ever believed Larry Fitzgerald was going to retire after this past season or not, the fact remained that it was a legitimate possibility.
The Arizona Cardinals’ all-time leader in pretty much every receiving category, Fitzgerald said all season a return in 2017 was no sure-thing, so coaches, teammates and fans were all on edge until the announcement came down Wednesday evening.
That’s not to say he did not give retirement serious consideration.
“After this year I was so banged up physically, mentally, psychologically, falling short of your goal — finishing the season terribly after what we were able to accomplish the year before,” Fitzgerald told ESPN’s Mike & Mike Friday morning. “I just didn’t want to go out like that; that’s not where I wanted to finish my career, on a 7-8-1 team.
“I wanted to try to finish on a much higher note. We’ve got a great team coming back next year, a wonderful coach in Bruce Arians. I’m really excited about our prospects.”
Many felt Fitzgerald was not going to call it quits in part because of how well he played this past season. The 33-year-old led the NFL in receptions, with 107, and his 1,023 yards and six touchdowns led the Cardinals in both categories.
While it is not uncommon for professional athletes to walk away from their respective games while they can still play at a high level, Fitzgerald was under contract for 2017 and has expressed confidence that the Cardinals are talented enough to make another deep playoff run.
Of course, there are no guarantees that he will remain effective or that his team will rebound from a losing season, though the prospects of both would be greatly enhanced if quarterback Carson Palmer also returns.
There has been recent speculation that the 37-year-old may be leaning toward retirement, though Fitzgerald deciding to continue his career may be a sign that Palmer isn’t done yet, either.
“I don’t have any expectations,” Fitzgerald said. “Carson’s going to make the decision that’s best for him. As a friend and as a team, I think it’s in our best interest of letting him take his time to make the decision that’s best for him and his family.
“He missed a game to a concussion last year, and we want to make sure he’s in his right mind and he’s making the decision that’s best for him and his family. But we would love to have him back because he’s one of the best in the business.”
An MVP candidate in 2015, Palmer slumped a bit in 2016 but still passed for 4,233 yards and 26 touchdowns. He played some of his best football late in the season, posting QB ratings over 100 in three of his final five games.
Fitzgerald, however, does not have any inkling as to what way Palmer might be leaning.
“I talked to Carson two days ago and we did not talk about any of this — before I even my announcement I was coming back — we did not talk one thing about football,” he told the Dan Patrick Show, adding they discussed skiing, families and things of that nature.
But if Palmer does not come back, Fitzgerald told Patrick, he “would be sad,” and not just because of how it might impact the Cardinals on the field.
“We really enjoy being around him, as a man,” he said. “He’s a really fantastic teammate and a good friend.
“It would be sad because I wouldn’t be able to see him every day, but also he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the National Football League.”
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