Dealing Cards: Still much to play for, but no Beckham Jr. to play against

Dec 22, 2017, 2:42 PM

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) points to the stands after intercepting a pass a...

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) points to the stands after intercepting a pass agains the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

TEMPE, Ariz. – Don’t tell the Arizona Cardinals there isn’t anything to play for this week, or next week.

“We trying to win games. We trying to get another ‘W’,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said.

Sure, the playoffs are out of reach, and perhaps have been for some time now. The loss at Washington officially eliminated the Cardinals from contention.

Still, don’t expect the Cardinals to just cruise through the end of 2017. Head coach Bruce Arians made that quite clear on Monday, when he announced the change at quarterback, saying Drew Stanton gives them the best chance to beat the New York Giants.

“We’re not going to throw our hands up and say, ‘Hey, let’s lose the games, get a better draft pick.’ That’s all (expletive) to me,” Arians said.

And therein lies the difference in thinking between coaches and players with that of fans and media.

“It’s about being a professional. It’s about being a leader. It’s about being accountable. It doesn’t change that we’re mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. We still got two opportunities to go put some good tape on the field,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said Thursday.

“The thing about it, I’m always telling the young guys is that we’re constantly being evaluated. Everything you put on the practice tape, everything you put on the game tape, somebody will be making the decision if they want to have you back here next year or if they want to give you a contract extension or if they’re going to send you packing. This is a performance-based business and every time you step on that field you have to understand that somebody is evaluating your every single step, your every single decision.

“That’s never been lost to me and I hope the young guys understand that also.”

There are also individual milestones within reach, including two big ones for Fitzgerald.

With eight receptions and 18 receiving yards, Fitzgerald will record 100+ receptions and 1,000+ receiving yards, becoming the first player in NFL history to hit those marks in a season he began at age 34 or older. In addition, Fitzgerald would join Jerry Rice (14), Randy Moss (10), Tim Brown (9), Terrell Owens (9) and Jimmy Smith (9) as the only players with 1,000+ receiving yards in at least nine seasons.

“We’re playing for stats right now. We’re playing for completion ratings. We’re playing for what you’re giving up this time of the year because this time of the year,” Peterson said, “guys start to think about vacations and start planning things. I’m not worried. I have two games left on the schedule that I’m looking to finish strong.”

A big ticket lost

For Peterson, the Christmas Eve matchup against the Giants does not have the same excitement as it did back when the schedule was announced in April. And it has nothing to do with either team’s current record.

“This was a big ticket for me this week. I was definitely looking forward to this matchup,” he said.

Much of the luster was lost, in Peterson’s eyes, when Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., a fellow LSU Tiger, suffered a season-ending ankle injury on Oct. 8.

“He’s still the only one I haven’t guarded yet, as far as a top-tier receiver. He’s the only one I haven’t had the opportunity to go up against,” Peterson said. “I’m telling you, this was a big ticket for me. I was definitely looking forward to this game because I believe Odell, he’s special. He has the speed, he has the agility, he has the quickness, he has the hands, the toughness; he has everything that you would want in a receiver. It’s just unfortunate to not have him out there on Sunday. I was definitely looking forward to this game.”

Unlike most, Peterson welcomes the challenge of facing the other team’s No. 1 receiver.

“No doubt about it. I mean, that’s why I play the game,” he said. “I believe that’s the only way you’re able to leave your mark, when you’re guarding the best each and every down. You want that, and that’s why I play the game, to get my opponent’s best shot and if it’s going up against the best player, that’s what I want.”

Fitzgerald’s future

With Sunday being the final home game of the 2017 season, the question had to be asked: Might the game also mark the final time Fitzgerald plays in front of Cardinals fans at University of Phoenix Stadium.

No one knows for sure, let alone the man himself.

On Nov. 11, the Cardinals announced they had signed Fitzgerald to a one-year extension, thus keeping the face of the franchise under contract through 2018. However, Fitzgerald has yet to commit, at least publicly, to playing next season.

“I don’t know,” he said, when asked when a decision might be made. “I’m going to take some time and figure it out. I’ll let you know, though.”

Still, might Fitzgerald linger a little longer on the field post-game just in case it is his last home game?

“No,” he said. “I’ll do what I usually do, say hello to my guys on the other team and head to the locker room. It’s no different.”

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Dealing Cards: Still much to play for, but no Beckham Jr. to play against