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As Usual, Fitz Doesn't Miss

Posted Dec 16, 2009

Seemingly automatic with his receiving, wideout won't let knee injury stop him

Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald tries to come down with a touchdown catch in San Francisco. The play was ruled incomplete, although Fitzgerald disagreed.
 
 
Larry Fitzgerald is out there, game after game, week after week.

The Cardinals’ Pro Bowl wide receiver doesn’t see why this week should be any different.

“We’ve got games we’ve got to take care of,” Fitzgerald said Wednesday.

Of course, this week is different. Fitzgerald suffered a bone bruise and right knee sprain against the 49ers, an injury that sounds bad on the surface but became terms of joy for both player and team considering what was feared in the immediate aftermath.

On the play he was hurt, Fitzgerald said it was “scary” because he heard a pop. That’s usually a sound of doom in the NFL, but Wednesday, Fitzgerald was practicing – albeit limited – and expects to play on the weekend.

“He hasn’t missed a lot of games,” quarterback Kurt Warner said. “He’s been pretty durable in playing with stuff and being effective. It’s been a blessing for us.”

The durability aspect makes Fitzgerald skittish. No need to talk about injuries, he figures, apparently for fear of angering the powers-that-be. But the reality is Fitzgerald has missed just four games since arriving in the league in 2004: Three in 2006 because of a bad hamstring, and one in 2007 because of a groin pull. That’s it, giving him a consecutive streak – including the postseason – of 35 games.

This is a guy who admittedly played much of last season with, among other bumps and bruises, torn ligaments in his thumb. Yet he still had 96 catches for 1,431 yards and 12 touchdowns in the regular season and then provided his superhuman playoff run (30-546-7 in just four games).

“We’re football players, and it’s our first instinct to go out and play regardless what the issues are,” Fitzgerald said. “Head, leg, whatever. When you sign a contract, it’s not just for when you are healthy or feeling good, it’s every day, you have to go to work.”

Given the one less day off since playing Monday night, coach Ken Whisenhunt said he will be conservative in using Fitzgerald at practice. The goal is to keep any swelling and soreness away, so that Fitzgerald can practice more Friday and then be ready to go in Detroit.

“He doesn’t like to miss practice, he doesn’t like to miss games,” Whisenhunt said. “He understands he plays his best games when he practices. That’s the mentality you look for in your players.”

Fitzgerald, who praised strength and conditioning coach John Lott for keeping players healthier, wants to help the Cards clinch the NFC West. He’s also got some personal milestones to reach. He needs just nine yards receiving to attain his fourth straight 1,000-yard season, and he needs three touchdown catches to surpass his career high of a season ago.

If Fitzgerald has at least 34 yards Sunday, he’ll also become the youngest player in NFL history to reach 7,000 for a career.

There’s always the chance Fitzgerald won’t be able to go. In that case, Whisenhunt said, the Cards will likely try to minimize the amount of position changes for the offense. It’s likely Steve Breaston would slide in for two-receiver sets, but Whisenhunt said the recently inactive Jerheme Urban could also play a role.

“We all know Larry is a huge part of what we do and a huge part of our success around here,” Warner said. “But I think that’s one thing I have seen through the course of my time here, when guys haven’t been able to go – at a lot of different positions – we have had a lot of guys step up and play well.

“It would obviously mean a lot not to have him and it would affect us. At the same time, I’d expect whoever it was to step into the role to step in and play well.”

If it is up to Fitzgerald, he’ll simply step into his own role, which the Cardinals have come to rely upon.

“We’ve got a lot of guys we need on Sunday,” Fitzgerald said. “Anquan, Reggie Wells, Kurt. Mike Gandy goes out there with a damn hernia, guts falling out and he’s still out there fighting. We’re football players. That’s how we’re wired.”
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