Larry Fitzgerald: ‘I have a lot of good football left in me’

Jul 21, 2016, 1:04 PM
Arizona Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald (11) arrives for an NFL football mini camp, Tuesday, June 7, 20...
Arizona Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald (11) arrives for an NFL football mini camp, Tuesday, June 7, 2016, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
(AP Photo/Matt York)

Larry Fitzgerald knows his playing days are closer to their end than their beginning.

The 32-year-old (he will be 33 on Aug. 31) is entering his 13th NFL season, and while he showed last year he can still play at a very high level, he’s not oblivious to the fact that, at some point, time catches up to every player.

“I would be lying to you if I told you I didn’t think [retirement] ,” he told NFL Total Access Wednesday. “You know, just trying to prepare for the next stage of your life.

“But, I have a lot of good football left in me. How long I play, I don’t know, but I feel great. I can still play at a high level, so I just take it one year at a time. And you know, I have a really fantastic football team that I’m a part of.”

Fitzgerald is coming off a renaissance season that saw him catch a career-high 109 passes, with 1,215 yards and nine touchdowns. He reestablished himself as one of the game’s premier wideouts, and did so for a team that won 13 regular season games and reached the NFC Championship Game.

Fitzgerald is scheduled to become a free agent following the 2016 season, though, and that — along with his age — has people wondering about how much longer he plans on playing. In fact, some are speculating that this will be his final season.

However, Fitzgerald has given no indication he is planning on making a decision on that front anytime soon, and why should he? As long as he is playing well and the team is successful, it’s hard to imagine him wanting to hang up his cleats.

Of course, Fitzgerald’s tenure in the desert has not been roses all the time. Since being chosen third overall in the 2004 NFL Draft out of Pittsburgh, he has been on just four teams that reached the postseason, and during his career has caught touchdown passes from 12 different quarterbacks — many of whom were not all that highly thought of.

His time with Carson Palmer, though, has been nothing short of a revelation. Last season, in particular, was something special, as both Fitzgerald and his QB torched a league that thought they were a bit too old to make that kind of impact.

Palmer, who is 36 years old, was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2006 after throwing for 4,761 yards and 35 touchdowns.

“I can’t speak for myself, but I can speak for Carson,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s aging like fine wine. He’s getting better with time. I think, him coming off of that knee injury he had last year, he played his best football last year at 35 years old.

“Only better things are coming for him this year. He has a great grasp on what Coach Arians is asking him to do. Steve Keim and Coach Arians have put around him tremendous pieces that are at his disposal.”

Part of the fun in having all these weapons, as Fitzgerald noted, is that the team has a head coach who is not afraid to use them. The receiver said Arians is “so innovative” in that there are always new things being worked on and wrinkles added to the offense.

“And we throw a touchdown the first time we do it,” he mused. “That’s the kind of mind he has. He’s a coach that always has his foot all the way down on the gas pedal. He is never going to let up. He is always going to be pushing for the best and biggest plays. That’s really exciting to me, especially as an offensive player on this team.”

Arians’ “no risk-it, no biscuit” mentality is one that has produced some good results over the last few seasons. In 2016, the Cardinals were first in the NFL in yards and second in points per game. According to ProFootballFocus, Palmer led the league in average depth of target at 11.3 per toss.

Effective? Yes. A product of the head coach’s style? Absolutely.

“He always talks about touchdowns and check downs,” Fitzgerald said of Arians. “The big plays there, we are going to take it, and we are going to make it. If it’s not there, make sure we make positive gains. That’s another one of his sayings. You never go broke, put money in the bank.”

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