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Dealing Cards: Fitzgerald sticks up for WRs, believes Boldin is a Hall of Famer

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald hugs teammate Brittan Golden (10) after Golden scored a touchdown against the Oakland Raiders during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The comment did not go unnoticed.

One week ago, Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians called out his wide receivers. They weren’t playing well, he said, except for Larry Fitzgerald and Jaron Brown.

The next day Fitzgerald was scheduled to have the day off from practice, a luxury given his veteran status. Fitzgerald dressed out for that day’s work anyway, choosing to stand by his teammates. To lead by example.

And though not mentioned by name, Fitzgerald took Arians’ comments as a personal slight.

“He is talking to me, though. He’s talking to everybody in that room,” he said in the locker room prior to practice Tuesday. “If I’m a leader of that room, that’s a shot at me, that’s a shot at all of us in that room. It doesn’t matter he didn’t mention me by name but it still affects me. It bothers me that was said. You take that personal. You’re a professional. You want to be the best you can possibly be and it’s your occupation so you don’t take that lightly.”

Injuries affected the wide receiver room early in training camp. Carlton Agudosi, John Brown, Aaron Dobson, Brittan Golden, Jeremy Ross and Chad Williams — half the position group — all missed practice time.

The good news is they have all since returned, which bodes well for an offense that once again is expected to be one of the better ones in the league. A year ago, the Cardinals finished with the ninth-best offense with a scoring average that ranked sixth.

How good the Cardinals will be in 2017 is too early to tell, at least judging by the preseason production, according to Fitzgerald.

“We haven’t had four quarters of football. We’re not game-planning really like that. I mean we’re just running our base (offense),” he said, “so it’s really difficult for me to say where we are because we haven’t really unleashed the full arsenal, but with the talent we have and the ability of the players we have offensively, there’s no reason for me to believe that we shouldn’t be a top-5 offense in the National Football League.”

Last week, the first-team offense struggled to move the ball against Chicago — to be fair, neither Fitzgerald nor running back David Johnson played much. And neither is expected to be on the field for a lot of snaps Saturday in Atlanta.

Still, it’s a big week. The third preseason game, or in the Cardinals’ case the fourth, is the final dress rehearsal before the start of the regular season.

“I understand we have to have a better showing this week,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s going to be a raucous atmosphere. It’s going to be the first time these guys have played at home since the NFC Championship Game. It’s going to be a great atmosphere. We got to come out with a lot of intensity.”

That’s my big brother

“Bittersweet.” That’s the word Fitzgerald used to describe the news good friend and former teammate Anquan Boldin had retired.

The two spent six seasons together in Arizona.

“He’s like a big brother to me,” said Fitzgerald, drafted a year after Boldin. “I wasn’t fortunate to have a big brother but he was definitely that person to me. He took me under his wing.”

Fitzgerald said he admired Boldin’s loyalty and toughness on the field and his humanitarian efforts off, mentioning trips to Ethiopia and Senegal, “doing things that are positive,” he said.

“I’m just happy that I was able to be around him for as long as I was able to and be able to call him a friend,” Fitzgerald added. “I just hope he’s happy and will enjoy his retirement.”

As far as whether the three-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion is a Hall of Famer? That’s not even a question, according to Fitzgerald.

“I believe so,” he said, without hesitation. “Every place he’s gone, I feel like he’s been the best receiver on that team. He’s led by example. Off the field. He’s done it the right way.”

Another padded practice

The Cardinals were back in pads on Tuesday. The practice lasted nearly the entire two-and-half hours it was scheduled for inside University of Phoenix Stadium.

Among the highlights:

— Quarterback Carson Palmer had the day off, so Drew Stanton worked with the first-team offense. Stanton looked good in late-game situations. He put the team in field goal position — Phil Dawson kicked a 35-yard field goal (he later made good from 58 yards) — with a sideline pass to J.J. Nelson and then later threw a touchdown pass to Jaron Brown.

— During 7-on-7, Trevor Knight lofted a pass over the head of linebacker Chandler Jones and into the arms of running back James Summers for a big gain.

— Other than that play, however, it was a struggle for Knight. He was picked off several times. Budda Baker, Ironhead Gallon, Patrick Peterson and Philip Wheeler were among those who recorded interceptions.

— Prior to Peterson’s interception, he appeared to cramp up and needed attention from head athletic trainer Tom Reed. Peterson only missed a handful of snaps.

— It was John Wetzel, not Cole Toner, at starting left guard with a triceps injury bothering Mike Iupati. Toner had worked with the first unit on Monday. He was back with the second unit and playing center with Will Holden and Kaleb Johnson holding down tackle and guard on the left side of the offensive line, respectively.

— The starting inside linebackers during 11-on-11 were Josh Bynes and Haason Reddick. Karlos Dansby went through position drills before leaving the practice field.

— As Arians had said Monday, receiver John Brown missed practice to attend a funeral. He’ll rejoin the team in Atlanta.

Injuries

On the injury front, Iupati will miss a few days with a triceps injury, according to Arians. Defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche limped off the field, appearing to favor his left leg. Running back Kerwynn Williams did not practice for unknown reasons.

Linebacker Jarvis Jones (back) and defensive tackle Ed Stinson (hamstring) remained out.

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