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Larry Fitzgerald: Bruce Arians being hospitalized ‘snaps you back to reality’

Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians argues a call that went to the Carolina Panthers with side judge Alan Eck during the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016. The Panthers won 30-20. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

TEMPE, Ariz. — The news came out Monday morning that Cardinals coach Bruce Arians had been admitted to the hospital with chest pains, and though Arians was released and returned home Monday night, it nonetheless was a shock to the team.

Veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who spoke to the media Monday afternoon, said he had chatted with Arians earlier in the day and that the coach was resting comfortably.

“He says he’s feeling better,” Fitzgerald added. “I think there’s a trend here. It’s stressful when we’re playing bad; when we were 13-3 last year, he was feeling good. As a player, you feel partly responsible for what’s happened and the stress and him not feeling well, so I think a lot of that falls on our shoulders and we don’t feel good about it.

“But it also, kind of, makes you appreciate real life. Obviously, what happened in Minnesota, it sucks — we would have loved to win the game, but Thanksgiving’s coming on Thursday and we’re human beings. At the end of the day we love coach, we want to see him healthy and we want to see him live a long life. That’s really what it’s about.”

The 64-year-old Arians is no stranger to medical issues. Just last August, he had to leave a night time training camp practice in San Diego with what was ultimately diagnosed as diverticulitis. He returned to coach, briefly, the following day, and since then has seemed to be healthy.

Fitzgerald harkened back to that time, and said Arians has the same mentality as the players and that is to push through this incident, though he is unsure of when the coach will be back with the team.

But from what the receiver heard, he said, Arians being in the hospital is more precautionary than anything, as he was not feeling well and wanted to make sure everything was OK.

And though the Cardinals want him back as soon as possible as they try to salvage their season, Fitzgerald said it’s not the most important thing.

“We are family, but when things like this happen I think it really punctuates how fragile life can be,” he said. “At times, when you are in the midst of a season and things are not going the way you want them to go, you lose sight of that — you feel like the world’s closing in on you. You go out to eat at the restaurants and people are telling you how bad you are, how bad you’re playing, so you kind of lose sight of real-world perspective.

“I think something like this really kind of snaps you back to reality, that this is life and this is his health. We want to turn things around, but we want to make sure Coach is good.”

Fitzgerald and the team were briefed on Arians’ status Monday afternoon, and after hearing from head trainer Tom Reed, felt better about his prognosis. From there, assistant head coach Tom Moore led the way, with position groups then breaking into their normal meetings.

Once Arians is healthy, there is no concern that things will not be the same, and Fitzgerald said that he hasn’t seen any difference in the coach’s energy level at any point this season, including shortly after the issue in San Diego.

But this, on the surface, seems a little different.

The Cardinals are not scheduled to take the field again until Wednesday, which is when they will begin preparing for next Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons. As for whether the players believe it might be better for Arians to take more time off, if only to make sure he is healthy, Fitzgerald said that’s not for them to decide.

“We’re wired to want to be able to participate and do your job, and I know Coach, he’s the most fiery out of the whole group,” he said. “We embody what he stands for: his tenaciousness, his passion, his enthusiasm — we try to play with that same energy that he displays on a daily basis.”

Whenever Arians returns, be it Tuesday, Wednesday or sometime later, he will come back to a team whose season has not gone nearly the way it expected. At 4-5-1, the Cardinals are in a tough spot if they are to make the playoffs, and a road tilt against the NFC South-leading Falcons awaits. Not having their coach would seem like a distraction, and if not that, it at least would mess with their routine.

However, this is not the first time the Cardinals have been through this, having to prepare while simultaneously being concerned for Arians’ health, and that experience will be beneficial as they go forward.

“We know what he would expect from us,” Fitzgerald said. “When we talked to him when he got sick in San Diego, he said, ‘Listen, don’t allow what happened to me be a distraction, we still have to focus.’

“The last thing he said to me (Monday) is, ‘We need a win this weekend,’ so I know where his mind is, we all understand what’s expected of us, and we need to play better and perform at a higher level.”

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