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Michael Bidwill: Larry Fitzgerald is the greatest Cardinal ever

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald walks off the field after a win over the Los Angeles Rams in an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
LISTEN: Michael Bidwill, President of the Arizona Cardinals

Take a look at the Cardinals’ record books and you will find Larry Fitzgerald’s name at or near the top of pretty much every category a receiver could rank in.

He is first in total receptions, with 1,125, tops in touchdowns, with 94, and is by far the franchise leader in receiving yards, with 14,389. He has also caught a pass in a record 195 straight games, and is ahead of the pack in individual combined yardage at 14,457.

A future Hall of Famer? No doubt. But the greatest Cardinal ever?

“No question,” team president Michael Bidwill told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday as part of Newsmakers Week. “I think he’s the greatest Cardinal ever; I also think he’s the greatest athlete in Arizona history.

“I think he’s the greatest community guy that gives back to the community in Arizona history. He is such an example both on and off the field.”

Fitzgerald’s on-field exploits are well known, and the night before Super Bowl LI he was named a co-winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year for his work within the community.

The 33-year-old has been a star for the team almost since the day he was chosen third overall in the 2004 NFL Draft. Largely because of Bidwill’s efforts, Fitzgerald has played every down of his professional career for the Cardinals.

There have been times where it seemed as though contract issues could arise or that Fitzgerald himself may have reason to explore other options, but he’s always returned to Arizona to play for the Cardinals. The 2017 season, which is the last of the receiver’s current contract, will be his 14th in the league.

“I think I’m extremely proud of it, but he put in all the work, he did all the good stuff on the field and off the field, and nobody’s more deserving than Larry Fitzgerald,” Bidwill said of Fitzgerald being a career Cardinal who is in line for the Hall of Fame and other post-career honors. “But in the meantime, we want to go out and have him take the trip next year — this year — all the way to Minneapolis, to Minnesota, to the new stadium up there and be hoisting the trophy with us at the end of the Super Bowl.”

The possibility of finishing his career like that is part of why Fitzgerald decided to return for the 2017 season, though he openly talked about the possibility of retiring.

Toward the end of the season, Fitzgerald had openly discussed the possibility of retirement, and seemed to be giving the concept quite a bit of thought.

Bidwill, however, said he always felt the receiver was not ready to call it quits just yet.

“I thought he would come back,” he said, before chuckling. “I always worry when players start telling me they’re praying about their decision, because if they’re praying, that’s not good.

“But if they just need some time — if they just need some time to get away, it’s a very physical game and you need a couple weeks just to get away, especially the older you get in your career, just to let their body recover.”

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