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Larry Fitzgerald: Not player I once was, but I’m still effective

LISTEN: Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals legend and wide receiver

Larry Fitzgerald is nearing the beginning of his 14th NFL season, and at 33 years of age, understandably approaches his craft differently than he did his career’s early days.

“A lot different,” he told Off the Edge with B-Train on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday. “I more so try to work smarter now than I do harder, and I think just getting to the season healthy. I know how to play the game, I know what’s asked of me on a weekly basis, every Sunday.

“I know what my role is, I’ve accepted my role. So just getting there healthy and not doing anything foolish in the offseason that would prohibit me from being healthy when the season starts.”

Fitzgerald has in the past talked about his disdain for training camp and preseason, though like the offseason workouts the team is taking part in now, there is a reason why such things exist.

Fitzgerald understands the importance of the offseason program, but has adapted his approach as the years have gone on.

The Cardinals’ all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns as well as a 10-time Pro Bowl selection, Fitzgerald said he can still keep up with the team’s younger players and enjoys competing with them on a daily basis.

He mentioned running with J.J. Nelson, a third-year pro who might be the fastest player on the team, claiming he is able to run with him.

“We’re not running full speed, we’re running striders,” he admitted. “My stride is right there with his stride.”

The Cardinals, of course, are not looking for Fitzgerald to run like Nelson.

No, when it comes to the future Hall of Famer, the hope is that 2017 will feature much of the same from 2016 and the season before. Last year, while the Cardinals struggled overall, Fitzgerald led the NFL with 107 receptions, which he turned into 1,023 yards and six touchdowns.

In 2015, when the Cardinals won 13 games, Fitzgerald caught 109 passes for 1,215 yards and nine scores.

Fitzgerald’s late-career renaissance coincided with the arrival of Bruce Arians as coach and Carson Palmer as QB, and it has helped cement his status as one of the best receivers to ever play the game.

The third overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft put his name in the conversation with an incredible run in the 2008 postseason, in which he caught 30 passes for 546 yards and seven touchdowns in four games. Since then, his star has been a bright one.

But does Fitzgerald, who considered retirement this past offseason, still have that kind of production left in him?

“I’d like to believe so,” he said. “If you would have asked me in 2007 if I was capable of doing what I did in 2008, I didn’t know.”

Fitzgerald said he would have hoped he could do that back then, and now he’s working hard and preparing his body just in case that kind of occasion presents itself.

“I like to always make sure I’m ready for whatever’s to come,” he said. “I can still play. I know I’m not as fast and I can’t jump as high as I once did, but I’m still effective; I can still go out there and get open, I can catch the ball, I can do the things that I need to do to help my team have success week in and week out.”

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