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Cardinals’ Fitzgerald stays involved even when not practicing

Larry Fitzgerald leans in and offers advice during a training camp practice Aug. 21. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Larry Fitzgerald missed his second straight practice on Wednesday, as Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said he is going to take his time when it comes to getting the veteran receiver back on the field.

Fitzgerald suffered a sprained MCL while the team was in San Diego. The ailment caused him to miss one practice as well as a preseason game, but he ran sprints on the Qualcomm Stadium field before the game Friday and was back at practice Sunday, so it seemed as though everything was fine.

However, the 32-year-old missed Monday’s practice, and was held out again on Wednesday.

“I’m good,” Fitzgerald said Wednesday when asked how his knee was doing.

Fitzgerald referred to this injury as being minor.

“I could probably go out there and be effective and do my job, but a setback with less than two weeks to go would be less than ideal,” he added. “I want to make sure that I’m doing what I can do to help my team right now, but obviously Sept. 11 is when it really hits the fan.

“That’s the goal, is have everybody, all hands on deck when we play the Patriots.”

Even though he is not practicing, Fitzgerald has made sure to stay involved on the field. He has been seen throwing passes as well as chatting with the team’s younger receivers.

After practice on Monday, he stayed on the field late to throw the ball to Marquis Bundy, while also giving him pointers.

He’s coaching.

“When not out there actually being able to perform, you have to stay into it mentally,” Fitzgerald said. “I envision myself running the routes and seeing the defense, looking at the concepts and what’s going on.

“And also, being a cheerleader. I love seeing my guys that go out there and have success; if I can be an asset to them in any way, I think that’s my job if I can’t be out there and actually be in the fight with them.”

That Fitzgerald stays engaged in practice even when he’s not a part of it has not gone unnoticed.

“He’s in it as mentally as he is when he’s practicing,” quarterback Carson Palmer said. “He’s coaching and helping and very focused on each play — he’s never standing on the sideline talking to anybody, goofing off.

“The fact that he doesn’t have a helmet and shoulder pads on is the only difference and that he’s not actually getting the reps, but he’s getting them mentally and helping out young guys with adjustments and splits and hots and all those things. So he’s just very involved.”

That ability and perspective may be something that was gained over time.

“He understands his position now,” Arians said. “He’s helping the young guys as much as he can, and if you see him, he’s always following somebody, he’s telling them and he’s also getting mental reps for himself.”

It’s been an interesting dynamic to watch unfold, especially as Fitzgerald is nearing the end of his career. While still an effective player — he was a Pro Bowler in 2015 after catching 109 passes for 1,215 yards and nine touchdowns — it lends itself to the idea that perhaps coaching is in his future.

Arians, however, doesn’t see it.

“No. He makes way too much money to coach. Way too much,” he said.

When presented with his coach’s take on his future — or lack there of — in coaching, Fitzgerald laughed.

“You know, I don’t think coaching’s in my future — not at this level,” he said. “It would definitely be like a youth level where it wouldn’t have to be as much of a commitment.”

Perhaps talk of Fitzgerald’s post-football future is premature given that he signed a contract extension earlier in camp that will carry him through the 2017 season. However, he said that move didn’t really have anything to do with him wanting to clear up his future, but instead just trying to help the team maintain its level of success.

“It wasn’t my idea; I didn’t go stand on Steve’s table and ask for an extension, if that’s what you’re asking that wasn’t the case,” he said. “I’m down for whatever is going to keep this thing going as long as we can.

“As you guys all know, success kind of goes in spurts in this league. A couple years back we had some teams that were pretty good, and then we had a couple down years, and now we’re at that point now where we have a really good thing going.”

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