Fitzgerald on chasing Rice’s NFL records: ‘I never play for second’
TEMPE, Ariz. — A whiff of competitive fire slipped out of Larry Fitzgerald’s mouth. With it came a paradoxical — and realistic — expectation as the Arizona Cardinals receiver sat in front of his locker Thursday, speaking to the media for the final time before the start of his 15th NFL campaign.
“I don’t know anybody that plays for number two,” he said when asked about the possibility he moves from third to second on the NFL’s all-time receiving yards list this season. “That doesn’t even register to me. I never play for second.”
Catching all-time leader Jerry Rice appears impossible, even if Fitzgerald put up 1,000-yard seasons for another five years.
The 35-year-old Arizona receiver knows it. And yet:
“That’s not going to happen but the mentality of being happy finishing second is — can’t ever allow that to happen,” he said.
Fitzgerald needs just 390 yards to surpass Terrell Owens and take second in career receiving yards. But he’s 7,350 yards away from the No. 1 spot held by Rice.
It’s the same story in terms of total receptions. Fitzgerald needs 92 to overtake tight end Tony Gonzalez for the second spot. Rice currently leads Fitzgerald by 315 catches.
An offseason of golf, travel and, from the outside, focus on Fitzgerald’s future with the Cardinals is in the rearview mirror with a Sunday matchup against the Washington Redskins on deck.
Ahead lies a fresh opportunity, a new system to learn and a new role leading a wide receiver group that averages 23 years old, not including himself.
Fitzgerald admits he’s at least feeling aged based on the comings and goings around him. He’s now played under four head coaches with the Cardinals. Fourteen quarterbacks have thrown him touchdown passes.
And yet, the Cardinals don’t see signs of Fitzgerald slowing down in terms of production.
“Well, he doesn’t look that aged right now,” offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said of Fitzgerald Thursday.
Leadership-wise, Fitzgerald has taken on a bigger role with the team’s decision to go young at the receiver spots around him.
Unprompted when asked about playing against the young receivers in camp on Monday, safety Tre Boston turned the conversation toward Fitzgerald, crediting his leadership.
McCoy called Fitzgerald the ultimate example.
“Those young pups he’s got in the room with him, didn’t matter if it was back in the offseason program after the draft with all the college free agents brought in,” the offensive coordinator said. “All he wants to do is help his teammates be the best they can possibly be.”
The turnover outside the Cardinals’ locker room this preseason also hit Fitzgerald. A preseason matchup with Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who has been in the NFL 18 seasons, reminded the receiver of how long he’s lasted. So did the games against … all those other guys.
“I remember standing on the sideline at the Cowboys (this preseason) and looking across the field and I was thinking, ‘I don’t know anybody on that team,'” Fitzgerald said.
“It was like, ‘Dude, I don’t know anybody out here.’ I just went to the locker room. I didn’t have anyone to talk to after the game.”
— McCoy doesn’t script out a series of 10 or more plays to begin the game as did former coach Bruce Arians.
“You talk about the situations that come up, the order of calling plays, but it’s hard to say that the game’s going to go how you want it from time to time,” the offensive coordinator said. “You have a good idea of your top runs, your top play-actions, your top base drop-back passes adn rank things situationally. But I’m not one to go out there and have X number of plays. It changes from week to week.”
— Patrick Peterson, on how to stop Washington running back Adrian Peterson, who will have a set of packages after being named the starter earlier this week: “Tie his shoes for him and hopefully he trips up along the way.”
— End Markus Golden did not practice on Thursday, making him appear doubtful for the Sunday matchup.
— Defensive coordinator Al Holcomb said that head coach Steve Wilks, a defensive backs coach by trade, has allowed him to make all the play-calls during camp. He expects that freedom will be issued going forward, though he’s open to occasional advice.