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Larry Fitzgerald returns home as Cardinals look for big win in Minnesota

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, right, catches a pass in front of Minnesota Vikings cornerback Marcus Sherels, left, during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Many stories have been told about how Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald was a ballboy for the Minnesota Vikings when he was younger.

A Minneapolis native, that — along with being the son of a prominent local sportswriter — afforded him the opportunity to spend time with and get to know many within the Vikings organization.

“I never took it for granted, I was very appreciative of the opportunity,” Fitzgerald said. “I was like a sponge; I was always trying to emulate and do the same thing I saw those guys doing, Cris Carter, the sideline, one-hand catches he would always do. I remember I would have my dad throw me those same catches in the backyard all the time and try to emulate everything he did in practice, so it was fun.”

Now in his 13th professional season, all of which have been spent in Arizona, Fitzgerald is once again returning home looking to do something he has never done.

Leave with a win.

The Cardinals are 2-5 against the Vikings since Fitzgerald arrived in 2004, and are winless in four trips to the Twin Cities.

“It would bother me if I played for the Vikings and I hadn’t won a game there,” Fitzgerald said, with a laugh. “It’s not like I have a big body of work there. I haven’t won in Buffalo, I haven’t won in Green Bay. Never won in Pittsburgh, as a professional. Never won in Houston.

“There are some places besides Minnesota that I haven’t won a ballgame in, so it is something I would like to change, obviously, but it doesn’t keep me up at night.”

According to Fitzgerald, however, there is no extra emotion tied to a return home.

“It’s just another game to me, honestly,” he said. “I’m at home in the summer time for fun, but this is just a business trip. It just happens to be the next game on our schedule.”

Is that so?

“I think every game means something to Larry, I don’t think it’s necessarily home,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said, with Fitzgerald listening. “I just think he wants to win. At the end of the day, we all want the win.

“I don’t think it has anything to do with individual accolades; we just need Ws right now. We need to come home 2-0 in the second half of the season.”

Of course the Cardinals earning a win in Minnesota for the first time since 1977 is paramount, given their tenuous postseason hopes. But also, before you believe that this is just another game for Fitzgerald, his QB begs to differ.

“Oh, no doubt. No doubt,” Carson Palmer said when asked if he senses any excitement from Fitzgerald or Michael Floyd, who is also from Minnesota. “Any time you get to go home and play in front of — you know, play right down the street from where you went to high school and play in front of family and friends. Everybody knows how special this is to those two guys.”

Floyd, like Fitzgerald, said the main thing is getting a win, but noted it is good to see family and other people who cannot make it to Arizona to see him play.

“Or it might be the first time to see me play, it’s always good,” he added.

Floyd said he does not buy into the idea that a player may press a bit in an effort to show off in front of the hometown fans, because whatever plays are there to be made will be made.

The Vikings have the NFL’s best scoring defense as well as a pair of elite cornerbacks in Xavier Rhodes and Terrence Newman, the more they can get from Fitzgerald and Floyd — along with the rest of their roster — the better.

For Fitzgerald, who has career totals of 44 catches, 610 yards and one touchdown against the Vikings, this may be his last chance to earn a road victory over the team he grew up watching. The Cardinals are set to hit the road against an NFC North team again next season, and if Arizona and Minnesota each finish in the same spot in their division this year, then Round 2 at U.S. Bank Stadium will take place in 2017.

Then again, as Fitzgerald noted while saying he hasn’t given the idea much thought, a second meeting could occur this season, too.

“They have a chance of making the playoffs, we have a chance of making the playoffs, so it might not be my last game,” he said.

Some stories for pre-game reading

GM Steve Keim is hopeful the team will get a long-term deal done with Chandler Jones

Andre Ellington has been learning to play Larry Fitzgerald’s role

Do the Cardinals make sense as an option for Tony Romo if he leaves Dallas?

Bruce Arians thinks padded practices have helped keep his team healthy

Craig Morgan writes how the 2016 version of Carson Palmer is pretty much who he is

The spotlight is once again on the Arizona Cardinals’ offensive line

A defense that can finish games is what the Cardinals are searching for

Miscellany

– The Cardinals are 11-2 in the month of November under Bruce Arians.

– A victory over the Vikings would give Arians his 39th with the Cardinals, tying him with Jim Hanifan for third on the franchise all-time wins list.

– With nine catches, Larry Fitzgerald would pass Tim Brown for fifth place on the NFL’s all-time receptions list. With 10 receptions, he would be the first player in franchise history to catch 10 passes in three consecutive games.

– David Johnson enters the game having recorded at least 100 yards from scrimmage in nine straight games.

– With 300 or more passing yards, Carson Palmer would join Kurt Warner as the only QBs in franchise history to throw for at least that many yards in four straight games.

– With two sacks, Calais Campbell would tie Simeon Rice for second place on the franchise all-time sacks list with 53.5.

– With two sacks, Chandler Jones would become the third player in franchise history to record at least nine sacks through the first 10 games.

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