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, Ariz. (AP) — If his 15th NFL season is to be his last, don’t expect Larry Fitzgerald to tell anyone.
Not until long after the season is over.
“I told you this a long time ago,” he said after the Arizona Cardinals practiced Thursday. “There’s never going to be a farewell tour. It’s not about me. There’s 53 guys on this roster. There’s 53 guys who are giving their all to compete and make this team better, and coaches. It’s so much bigger than any one individual.”
It’s pretty much the same thing Fitzgerald has said each of the past few years when questions are raised about the inevitable end to one of the greatest careers of any wide receiver in NFL history.
“No game was ever won by one man and no game was ever lost by one man,” he said. “When you start thinking that it’s bigger than that and it’s about you, that’s when you’ve lost touch with what this game is all about and what the spirit of this game is about.”
Make no mistake about it. Fitzgerald knows all about where he stands statistically on the NFL career lists. The numbers do mean a lot to him. But he spends very little time talking about them. Maybe there will come a time, perhaps at that Hall of Fame induction ceremony. But for now, Fitzgerald is insisting he’s just one guy on a team.
When Sam Bradford tosses one in a regular-season game to Fitzgerald, he will become the 18th quarterback to complete a pass to No. 11 in the receiver’s years with Arizona. That is a lot of quarterbacks, to be sure.
“It’s a privilege,” Fitzgerald said. “Most guys don’t get a chance to play long enough to be able to catch the ball from that many quarterbacks. I look at it as a blessing and a testament to my longevity. Hopefully, we can go a whole season and not have to make any changes.”
Some of the quarterbacks are well known — including Hall of Famer Kurt Warner and recently retired Carson Palmer. There also was Brian St. Pierre, Max Hall and John Skelton, among many others.
Injuries led to in-season quarterback changes. So did poor quarterback play. But through it all, Fitzgerald usually catches whatever comes his way. He has caught a pass in 211 consecutive games, the second-longest such streak in NFL history behind Jerry Rice’s 274. Only once in his 218 career games did he not catch a pass.
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, who turns 35 on Aug. 31, is within striking distance of the No. 2 spot on two other significant career lists — receptions and yards receiving. He has 15,545 yards receiving and needs 390 to pass Terrell Owens into second (behind Rice’s 22,895) and, with 1,234 catches, needs 92 to pass Tony Gonzalez into second, behind Rice’s formidable 1,549.
If those numbers seem a stretch, consider that Fitzgerald was second in the NFL last season with 109 catches (tying his franchise record) for 1,156 yards. The past three years, between the ages of 32 and 34, Fitzgerald caught 325 passes.
Five years ago, with the hiring of coach Bruce Arians, Fitzgerald was moved from his customary wideout position to play in the slot, where blocking was a major part of his duties and he was among the best doing so at his position.
Now comes another new offense under coordinator Mike McCoy Youth Chris Wagner Jersey
, an attack that looks to combine power running with a ball control game. In the first preseason game, Fitzgerald’s block was critical in springing David Johnson for a 14-yard gain.
Fitzgerald said he’s excited to see what this new system will do. He just wants to get started. First, there is Sunday night’s preseason game at Dallas.
“I’m ready for the preseason to be over with,” he said.
Like the other starters, Fitzgerald won’t play in the preseason finale against Denver. Now it’s all about staying healthy Sunday.
“I feel great. I just want to keep it that way,” he said. “That’s why I want the preseason to be over and the real season starts coming and the real checks start coming.”
Notes: Rookie QB Josh Rosen slammed the thumb on his throwing hand against a helmet in practice this week but coach Steve Wilks said that he still expects Rosen to play.
Jon Gruden has never had a promising, young quarterback like Derek Carr to develop in 11 seasons as an NFL head coach.
Carr hasn’t had the opportunity to play for a coach like Gruden, an offensive mastermind known for his maniacal work ethic and attention to detail.
The way those two fare together will determine whether Gruden’s return for a second stint as coach of the Oakland Raiders will end up as the resounding success owner Mark Davis hoped for while pining for a reunion the past six years.
”I had a chance to visit with Derek Carr this morning and I said, `Derek, this is an unbelievable opportunity and if you’ll just take advantage of the opportunity, there’s so many great things in store for you, not only professionally but personally,”’ said Rich Gannon, whose career took off after joining Gruden in Oakland in 1999.
”Jon’s excited to work with Derek and Derek’s already a good player but he’s got a chance to be a Hall of Famer and win multiple Super Bowls if he’ll just do the work.”
Carr will be tested and challenged like he hasn’t in his first four seasons. Gruden is famous for arriving at work each day at 3:17 a.m., putting in long hours each week.
He will also ride Carr hard if necessary in order to bring out the best in his game.
”I don’t care how hard Derek worked before, he’s going to have to change his work habits a little bit to fit in Authentic Jalyn Holmes Jersey
,” Gannon said.
Gannon became a star when he joined up with Gruden after 12 seasons as a journeyman in Minnesota, Washington and Kansas City. He became a first-team All-Pro in his second season with Gruden and won the league MVP the year after Gruden was traded to Tampa Bay.
Carr showed he was capable of being a top quarterback when he garnered MVP support in a breakthrough 2016 season. But he took a major step back this past year after signing a $125 million, five-year extension.
He matched his career high with 13 interceptions and recorded his worst totals in yards, touchdown and passer rating since his rookie year in 2014.
”I think there is a huge ceiling in Derek Carr,” Gruden said. ”I think he has proven that. Up to us as a coaching staff to improve around him, get more consistent, and come up with an offense that really allows him to soar into another level.”
Fixing Carr is just one of Gruden’s tasks. Getting receiver Amari Cooper back on track is nearly as important. After beginning his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, Cooper took a major step back in 2017. He was plagued by the drops that hurt him as a rookie and only topped the 100-yard mark twice all season while finishing with career lows with 48 catches for 680 yards.
It was a puzzling drop-off for a receiver who entered the year considered one of the top in the game. Hall of Famer Tim Brown said he believes Cooper could be in for a 120-catch season if he listens to Gruden’s advice.
”Even for a guy like me, who was having a pretty good career, he was able to take me to another level, showing me how much better I could be,” Brown said. ”I thought I was doing pretty good. Sometimes you just have to turn your brain off and buy in. If you can do that great things can happen.”
Even some of the greatest players in the game’s history credit Gruden for some of their success. Hall of Famer Jerry Rice arrived in Oakland in 2001 as the most accomplished receiver in NFL history but appeared to be on the decline after failing to reach 1,000 yards in each of his final two seasons in San Francisco.
But he had a rebirth in Oakland under Gruden, catching 83 passes for 1,139 yards at age 39. He followed that up with 92 catches for 1 Tomas Tatar Jersey
,211 yards the following season and compared Gruden to his former coach in San Francisco, Bill Walsh.
”Could be your best friend or your worst enemy, that’s going to keep you on your toes,” he said. ”Maybe that was something that the players, they were lacking this year. Sometimes you fall into listening to the talk but you need a coach that’s going to keep you focused. With Jon Gruden, he’s that type of coach.”
While Gruden’s biggest impact is on offense, his leadership and intensity translate to the entire team. Hall of Famer Howie Long has seen just about everything. He played for 13 years, announced for more than two decades and has two sons in the NFL.
So Long knows what players want in a coach.
”They want to be great and they want to be led,” he said. ”They want to believe in the guy in front of the room. I call it the Saran Wrap factor. Players see right through that in the front of the room if you’re not authentic, you’re not genuine, you’re not that way every day. … Jon has that.”
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