BY: ED COLE
TEMPE, Ariz. – If things go according to plan, Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will reach some career milestones against the Rams on Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.
Fitzgerald needs eight yards to reach 1,000 receiving yards for the season. It would be his seventh career 1,000 + yard receiving season. He also needs 56 yards to pass Hall of Fame wide receiver Andre Reed (13,198) for 15th place on the NFL’s all-time receiving yardage list. He also needs eight catches to reach 1,000 receptions for his career.
It’ll be fantastic when Fitzgerald crosses over and completes these tasks, but he’ll let everyone else talk about him and celebrate him for doing them. He’s got football on the brain, not accolades.
“It’s not time to start smelling roses now; we’re in the midst of something special here,” Fitzgerald said. “Every single week is a work in progress to try to help ourselves reach our goals, so for individuals to start looking at personal things, it’s not the time for that. It’s not time to reflect.”
What’s ahead of Fitzgerald and the Cardinals are two games in a five-day span of each other. They’ve got the Rams on Sunday, then they play host to the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday Night Football a few short days later.
Now you see why Fitzgerald has his blinders on.
“You gotta take it with a grain of salt. We understand it’s an important game (Rams). It’s just as important as the next (Vikings),” Fitzgerald said. “Two games in (five) days, it’s the toughest thing you can have in the National Football League right now, but that’s the schedule. Minnesota’s (Vikings) gotta do the same thing, they gotta play Seattle (Seahawks), then come right back and travel (to Arizona). It’s actually much easier when you’re able to host a Thursday night game. You lose an extra day with travel, so I guess we got that one advantage.”
In addition to having one of the best home-field advantages in all of the NFL in playing at University of Phoenix Stadium, the Cardinals have the advantage of having two of the hottest players (Fitzgerald and quarterback Carson Palmer) at their respective positions. They’re both putting up career numbers this season in what most critics felt like their twilight season, with them both being in their 30’s.
“I’ve always felt like I’ve had a great rapport with Carson (Palmer) since Day One,” Fitzgerald said. “You don’t really need that much work with a guy that’s that accurate, and has that much experience. You just need to be where you’re supposed to be, and he has to trust you, as opposed to you trusting him, because he’s very accurate, and he knows what he’s doing. It was up to me to get on his page, and try to earn his trust, and try to maintain his trust.”
Fitzgerald is the healthiest he’s been in years. That’s a rarity to say about a player who’s a dozen years into his NFL career, and one who plays as hard and as physical as Fitzgerald’s played, especially in the last three years since head coach Bruce Arians has been his boss.
“I’m a loyal soldier,” Fitzgerald said, when referring to taking on the dirty work like laying some tough blocks down instead of going out for a route.
A while back, Arians said he just went up to Fitzgerald and told him his new blocking role was going to happen, and he had to fall in line with it, because it’s for the good of the team, which Fitzgerald is all about.
“There’s so many years I’ve played when I was on teams in December, (and) I was out of contention already. We were scheduling vacations, seeing what I was going to be doing after the season. Now, nobody has that kind of mindset around here anymore,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re focused on trying to win this division (NFC West), (and) executing assignments on every single play. The last two games we played (Bengals, 49ers), they were pretty close games. Those games, back in the day, we probably would’ve found a way to lose. Now, we’re finding ways to win those kind of close games, even when we’re not playing our best ball. I think that’s indicative of a team that’s quality in terms of character, in terms of preparation, and when things aren’t always going your way, you still find a way to be successful.”