Larry Fitzgerald: Decision on future will likely wait until at least February

Dec 29, 2016, 3:58 PM | Updated: Dec 30, 2016, 11:09 am
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) waves during the second half of an NFL footba...
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) waves during the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints , Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

TEMPE, Ariz. — February 1.

That is the date Larry Fitzgerald offered, not because it’s when he plans on making an announcement with regards to his future, but because it is about that time when his body will have recovered from the season he just played.

Whether he plans on coming back for the 2017 season or not, he likely won’t have any inkling until at least then.

“You’ve played in 16 games, you’re banging with very strong guys every week, it’s just part of it,” Fitzgerald said Thursday as he held court with the media in front of his locker. “Once that wears off, you kind of have a better determination, feeling of what you want to do at that point.

“So I think the best thing is not to make any haste decisions and that’s kind of the process I’m going to take.”

With that in mind, as Fitzgerald and the Cardinals head into the final game of the 2016 season — and possibly the last game in the receiver’s Hall of Fame career — his status offers an interesting backdrop to an otherwise interest-lacking Week 17.

Fitzgerald enters the game four receptions behind Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown for the NFL lead, and with Brown set to sit out the Steelers’ final game, the door seems to be open for the Cardinals’ veteran to take home the receptions crown.

Yet, Fitzgerald said if Brown does not play the achievement will not mean as much, adding it will require an asterisk if it happens.

While Fitzgerald needs four catches to pass Brown, seven would tie his career high for receptions in a season, with his mark of 109 being set just last season. Even surpassing that would ring hollow, though, because as the receiver pointed out, last year’s effort came in a playoff season.

“Nothing felt better than that,” he said.

At this time last season, as Fitzgerald and the Cardinals were gearing up for a postseason run, there was not much talk about his place in the record books or possible retirement. But with the team having been eliminated from playoff contention for a few weeks now, the topics have understandably changed.

If you’re looking for any hints, however, you can perhaps take solace in the fact that Fitzgerald, 33, said he feels “pretty good” physically.

“No, like, glaring issues or anything like that,” he said. “Just normal, overall fatigue and tired, sore. I think everybody around the league, Week 17, probably feels about the same.”

However, when prompted about how his gaudy statistics would seem to indicate he still has a few good years left in him, Fitzgerald responded, “some people could say that.”

If Fitzgerald calls it quits sometime after Sunday’s game, he said the thing he would miss the most is being around his teammates, joking that paychecks are a close second.

“And then I would say third, the competition and the game speaks for itself,” he said. “There’s nothing like running out, hearing your name called, and you hear 60,000 people cheering or booing.

“That’s a high that can’t be replaced.”

It may not have to be, at least just yet. Fitzgerald is under contract for next season, and though he has talked about considering retirement, there has been little inkling of which way he will go. He said physically he could still compete at a high level, adding that is not what the issues are.

Only Fitzgerald truly knows what will be the determining factors, and as he’s repeatedly said, as of now he’s still not sure what he is going to do. That uncertainty has led some to surmise he will return in 2017, which may very well be the case.

Or, he could decide 13 seasons, 10 Pro Bowls and countless other awards and records are enough, and that it’s time to move on.

When the time comes, Fitzgerald said “I’ll know.”

If it is the latter option, then Fitzgerald’s career will have ended without much fanfare, as there has been no farewell tour for one of the best players the franchise has ever known. That may seem odd and perhaps even criminal, but for Fitzgerald, he would not want it any other way.

“It’s not about me; this is a team game,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m one of 1,600. I’ve had a great time doing it but I will never say ‘I’m about to do this’ and try to get some adulation. That’s not how I’m wired.

“Tim Duncan’s more my speed.”

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