GLENDALE, Ariz. — Larry Fitzgerald is not a hockey player, and that was apparent from the moment he stepped on the ice Monday afternoon at Gila River Arena to skate with Shane Doan and other Coyotes.
Fitzgerald traded his cleats for skates in part to help promote Saturday’s Coyotes game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, which is also “Larry Fitzgerald Night” — 10,000 bobbleheads of him in a Coyotes uniform will be given out.
“It’s really exciting,” he said. “I know my kids are excited; I’m excited to be there and watch the game.
“I haven’t been for about a year or so, so it’s always good to come out and support. Hopefully, we come out with a W Saturday.”
Fitzgerald said taking the ice at Gila River Arena was something he had always wanted to do but never tried, and to his credit, he never fell down and only a couple times appeared to stumble. He was also able to corral some short passes from Doan as well as get a couple pucks to the Coyotes’ Captain.
Turns out, none of this was tough to put together.
“When they told me that they were potentially thinking about doing a bobblehead night, I was very receptive,” Fitzgerald said. “Shane didn’t have to call me or try to tug me on it. I wanted to do it.
“I’m a big fan. I love my local teams. The Coyotes are always very active in the community, their players are always out doing great things. I wanted to come out and lend some help to try to get some people to come watch the game.”
Alas, the 33-year-old who last week announced he was going to continue his Hall of Fame football career in 2017 will not likely be looking to change sports anytime soon, which is fine with the Cardinals and their fans, who are excited to have another season with one of the best players in the franchise’s history.
Why keep going?
That Fitzgerald decided to return for another season may not have come as a surprise to some, especially since he is still playing at a high level and was under contract for another season.
But still, Fitzgerald did contemplate calling it a career. He reiterated that he just couldn’t see his playing days end on a season like the last one.
“Just got unfinished business,” he said. “We had a great year the previous year, then came back and didn’t have the kind of year we wanted to have.”
Fitzgerald said the standard the organization has set was not met in 2016, and he is sure they can do better.
“We have too much talent and ability,” he said. “Everybody knows the windows in sports are very small, and when you have a team that possesses the talent and ability to make a run, you want to keep the nucleus together.”
The Cardinals finished last season 7-8-1, but that final record does nothing to limit Fitzgerald’s belief.
“I just know the kind of talent we have. Offensively, defensively we can compete with anybody,” he said. “We have a roster full of very gifted players; we just need to be able to put it together for 16 weeks to get us a chance to get in the dance.
A good guy — nay, a great guy
On Saturday at the NFL Honors, Fitzgerald was named a co-winner of the Walter Payton NFL Many of the Year Award. He is sharing the honor with New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
“I’m still just extremely humbled by it,” he said. “I don’t think anyone who has ever won sets out to win a humanitarian award; I don’t think that’s the essence behind serving.
“But to be recognized with three outstanding men, and then it was even cooler to have Kurt Warner invited to the stage — a past recipient and the newest Hall of Famer — it was just a really cool night and one I will never forget.”
Warner won the same award while with the Cardinals in 2008, with the trophy being presented him prior to Super Bowl XLIII, in which Arizona played.
Kurt’s in Canton
Fitzgerald, who caught 39 touchdown passes from Kurt Warner, was excited to see his former teammate finally get the Hall of Fame nod.
“It’s great to see Kurt get in,” he said. “I know he’s been waiting for the call and to see him up on that stage with some of the greatest to ever do it, it was a lot of fun. I’m so happy for him.
“He’s meant a lot to me on a personal level and obviously on a professional level, and to see that smile on his face and know the sacrifices he’s made, to be able to finally get up there was great.”
Most of the time, bobbleheads have a pretty strong resemblance to the player (or person) they are meant to honor. Fitzgerald is pleased with his.
“They kept me abreast of the whole process when it was going,” he said. “It came out good. I’ve got a good looking bobblehead.”
Fitzgerald, who is donning the Coyotes’ home sweater, thinks they got the important details right.
“I think so. It’s got my hair, it’s got my earrings, it’s got my big teeth,” he joked. “I think it’s got me sewed up.”
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