BY: ED COLE
GLENDALE, Ariz. – It’s been nearly two months since the Arizona Cardinals lost in the NFC Championship Game to the Carolina Panthers. The locker room was understandably subdued after Arizona’s 49-15 loss to Carolina, with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald getting emotional at the postgame press conference.
That’s how bad Fitzgerald wanted to get back to the Super Bowl, and get himself and the Cardinals their first world championship.
Fitzgerald and a few of his teammates – quarterback Carson Palmer and cornerback Patrick Peterson – are past what happened in Charlotte, N.C., on Jan. 24, and they’re concentrating on the offseason program that’s coming up for the Cardinals.
“Yeah, I’ve closed that chapter,” Fitzgerald said. “The end of the year did not end the way we wanted it to end, but 31 teams feel the same exact way we do. The good thing about next year is that we pretty much have the same nucleus of guys that we finished the season with on our team next year, so that’s great. Obviously (Cardinals general manager) Steve (Keim), and upper management are doing everything they can to strengthen our roster in free agency, and I know they’re going to do a heck of a job as they always do in the (NFL) Draft.”
Every player gets past a crushing loss like that at different times, and in different stages. For Fitzgerald, he said it took him a couple weeks to get that bad taste out of his mouth.
“It was tough watching the Super Bowl (50), and everything that leads up to the Super Bowl, because you envision yourself being in that predicament, throughout the course of those two weeks after you lost that game (NFC Championship Game),” Fitzgerald said.
Palmer had arguably the worst game of his NFL career that day. Of the seven Cardinals turnovers against the Panthers, Palmer was directly responsible for six of them (four interceptions, two fumbles).
Nobody within the organization – Palmer included – was panicking afterwards, and in the weeks following, thinking something was wrong with him. Keim, Fitzgerald, head coach Bruce Arians, and everyone else held onto their strong belief in Palmer, and the fact that he can get the job done, and get them to the promised land, hopefully next year.
“I’m excited,” Palmer said of the coming season. “The offseason’s great, and then you get to this point in the offseason, and you’re ready for the offseason to be over, (and) you’re ready to get going again. I’m getting antsy. Once we get going in April, I know everybody’s going to be excited. I know I’m going to be excited, and we’ll get rolling again.”
In Peterson’s case, his cool down period was much shorter than Fitzgerald’s and Palmer’s. Peterson, like Palmer, has a brand new baby, so Paityn’s been taking up a lot of his time ever since she came into the world. She’s a blessing, because her presence helped her daddy get over such a horrific game on the biggest stage he’s been in in his career.
“We didn’t have a game after it, so after that loss, I pretty much knew the season was over,” Peterson said. “Nothing we could do about it, it’s no more dwelling we could do, we wish we could’ve played better, because we felt like we definitely didn’t play our best ball game, and what a great time to pick a time to not play your best ball.”
“I got over that game fairly quickly,” Peterson said. “It stuck with me (for) a while when we were on the plane (traveling back to Arizona), but once we got home, and after the exit meetings, and all that stuff, football was kind of over now. I had a newborn (Paityn) too at the house, so I had an opportunity to keep my mind on (other) things, and it’s been working out pretty well for me.”