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Desire Still Burns For Larry Fitzgerald

Posted Apr 17, 2018

Cardinals star doesn't need external motivation entering 15th season

Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald speaks with the media after the first day of minicamp.

Larry Fitzgerald gathered his cell phone and rose slowly after a media session Tuesday afternoon, a sweat-soaked long-sleeved shirt still clinging to his chest.

A few minutes earlier, the Cardinals’ star receiver and his teammates had wrapped up the first voluntary minicamp session of the offseason.

Some veterans, especially those of Fitzgerald’s stature, may have chosen to stay away, for at least a bit longer. Yet Fitzgerald was here, ready to start the grind of a 15th professional season.

While those fighting for roster spots or bigger roles have a natural offseason motivation, Fitzgerald was asked if the coaching change helped recharge him. Despite contemplating retirement for a second straight offseason, Fitzgerald was clear that his incentive rages from within.

“I never really need to be rejuvenated,” Fitzgerald said. “I love the competition. I love hearing people say, ‘He’s 35. He’s too old to do this still.’ And me just continuing to do what I do. All that stuff motivates me. Guys are coming in to take my job every year. I use anything I possibly can to motivate myself. I don’t need anything more. Honestly, I’m as motivated as I was when I was 20 when I was just cutting my teeth.

“It doesn’t really turn off. That’s a good and a bad thing. I’m probably going to struggle when I’m done with it.”

While quarterback Carson Palmer and coach Bruce Arians retired this offseason, Fitzgerald couldn’t bring himself to give up the game. Amidst plenty of turnover around him, the ageless pass-catcher remains the constant with the Cardinals.

“It’s a blessing,” Fitzgerald said of reaching a 15th year. “I can’t tell you that I thought it would happen. I dreamed I would be able to play in the same place and be able to play at a high level for a long time. That’s what you work for. That’s what you aspire to do.”

It was an impressive half-decade under the previous regime for Fitzgerald, particularly the past three years, when he amassed an average of 108 catches and 1,131 yards per season.

It was back to basics on Tuesday, as Fitzgerald makes the transition from Arians’ philosophy to that of new offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. The goals are small right now, like memorizing the playbook, developing a chemistry with new quarterback Sam Bradford and figuring out his role.

“When you have a new coach, the coaching staff has preconceived notions of what you are and what you can do from the outside looking in,” Fitzgerald said.  “And it’s your job once you get out there to prove what you can do.”

Fitzgerald downplayed his role as someone others on the team look up to, but it’s clear his conclusions can reverberate among his teammates. So it’s a positive sign that he and new coach Steve Wilks have already developed a good relationship.

“Something would probably have to be wrong with you not to like him,” Fitzgerald said of Wilks. “He’s so approachable, so down to earth. Honesty. Integrity. All those things come to mind when you talk to him.”

It’s not lost on Wilks to have such an influential player in his corner. While Fitzgerald motivates himself through the offseason, it undoubtedly rubs off on the players around him.

“When you have a caliber player of his status, guys are going to gravitate toward him,” Wilks said. “He’s an extension of my voice. He’s an extension of the coach’s voices. It’s great to have him in that locker room, and it’s great to have him out on that field.”

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