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Finally, Fitzgerald and Peterson are teammates with the Cardinals

New Arizona Cardinals teammates Larry Fitzgerald and Adrian Peterson met at the Touchdown Club of Columbus in 2003. (Photo courtesy Larry Fitzgerald)

TEMPE, Ariz. – The relationship between Larry Fitzgerald and Adrian Peterson dates back to 2003. The two first met at the Touchdown Club of Columbus awards banquet, when Fitzgerald and Peterson were honored as the college and high school football players of the year, respectively.

Now, some 14 years later, the good friends are together again, this time as teammates with the Arizona Cardinals.

“He’s going to be a great addition, obviously,” Fitzgerald said Thursday, two days after the Cardinals acquired Peterson from the Saints for a conditional 2018 draft pick. “The system he was running in New Orleans wasn’t conducive to his style. Here, we’re a downhill running team and he’ll be a great addition and wonderful teammate and, obviously, works his tail off.”

And Peterson is needed.

Relegated to third string in New Orleans with only 27 carries in four games, Peterson will be the featured back with the Cardinals, the third different one to assume that role since David Johnson was lost Week 1 to a dislocated wrist.

“He’s really eager to go out there and showcase what he’s capable of doing,” Fitzgerald said, referring to Peterson, who’s rushed for more yards than any running back since entering the NFL in 2007. “We all have a lot of faith in him, and hopefully he’ll be just the boost we need to really start taking off.”

Embarrassed last week in Philadelphia, the Cardinals could use a spark heading into Sunday’s matchup against Tampa Bay.

“I wouldn’t say that it’s been negative energy around. Obviously, it sucks being 2-3,” Fitzgerald said. “But, we understand it’s a long season. We got a lot of games to play and we just got to take it one practice at time, one game at a time. We need to play better. We usually play pretty good at home. Our home crowd is always behind us and into the games and hopefully we’ll be able to feed off of that energy and be able to get the run game going, which will, obviously, open up some things down the field for our playmakers.”

The only negative to Peterson’s addition, according to Fitzgerald, was that it came at the expense of another good friend, Chris Johnson.

Still, Fitzgerald is smart enough and has been around the league long enough to know that decisions, tough decisions, sometimes need to be made.

A decade ago, the Cardinals made a decision, one that Fitzgerald, and others, often look back and think, ‘what if’; ‘what if’ the Cardinals had drafted Peterson instead of offensive lineman Levi Brown with the fifth overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft?

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

“We’d have a championship if we had gotten him then,” Fitzgerald said, smiling. “No knock on Levi, he was a great teammate over the years but (Peterson) has scored 100-plus touchdowns in nine seasons, 10 seasons. You can’t argue with that productivity and NFL MVP. He’s been fun to watch from a distance. It’s always been kind of sour to know that we could’ve had him, but that goes for six other teams, too, that passed on him.”

To be fair, this is not the first time Fitzgerald and Peterson have been teammates. No, they’ve shared the same side of the field a handful of times in the Pro Bowl. But yes, this is different.

Also, the two are not only locker-mates in Arizona but roommates as well — sort of.

Peterson is staying at Fitzgerald’s guest house, at Fitzgerald’s insistence of course. And at least initially, it’s going — well, it’s apparently gotten off to a rocky start.

“As you can see, I got a black eye here. He hit me in my eye yesterday,” Fitzgerald joked. “I gave him one of my cars and he didn’t like it and told me he wanted to drive a different one. I told him, ‘No,’ and obviously you see who won that, so he’s driving what he wants to drive.”

The accommodations, Fitzgerald hopes, are up to Peterson’s standards—“I haven’t heard him complain yet,” he said—and he added, he’s put forth no house rules. In other words, Peterson is allowed to do what he wants.

“He doesn’t have to sneak (into the house). He’s got the keys. He can come in and go as he pleases,” Fitzgerald said.

Now, if only their 14-year reunion goes as smoothly on the field.

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