Bruce Arians was asked if he was nervous that wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald wouldn’t return to the Cardinals in 2015.
The Cardinals coach didn’t hesitate.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t,” Arians said. “We definitely, desperately want him to stay. He knows that. It’s really his decision.”
Arians was asked at nearly every stop of his Friday Radio Row tour about the status of the Cardinals’ multi-time Pro Bowler, not a surprise given Fitzgerald’s place in the game. The Cardinals want to re-do Fitzgerald’s contract, get him to lower his salary and ease the massive $23.6 million salary cap hit he is
There is no real news to this point – team president Michael Bidwill already said this week Fitzgerald contract talks wouldn’t begin in earnest until after the Super Bowl – but Arians made it clear in all his answers he’d like a solution in which Fitzgerald is a Cardinal.
“I’m hoping and praying every day that it does happen,” Arians said at another point in the morning. “I’ve expressed to him personally how much it means to us.”
Arians said he had no doubt Fitzgerald remains an elite NFL receiver. It is leg injuries that have done him in in the two seasons Arians has been coach. In 2013, Arians said Fitzgerald’s hamstring troubles bothered him for at least two months. This season, he hurt his knee in the preseason, and then, just when Fitzgerald was playing at a high level, he suffered the bad MCL sprain that limited him essentially for the duration of the year.
Nevertheless, Arians said, Fitzgerald “is the ultimate team player.”
“He’s bought into what we’re doing offensively,” Arians added.
That’s a key point coming from Arians. Speculation had been that the Cardinals might have wanted to phase Fitzgerald out of future plans. Instead, Arians clearly attaches value to some of the non-statistical benefits Fitzgerald provides, in both emotional leadership and his blocking ability.
“God yeah. Larry has become one of the best blockers, like Hines Ward, in the league,” Arians said. “You really have to be a football player to have that role. But he knows how much it helps the team. He’s learned to play in the slot well, he can still play outside. He can do pretty much everything in the offense.”