Sporting a Cardinals baseball cap, the veteran tight end and Valley native – he attended Mesa Mountain View High School and Arizona State – had a chance to look around the league after the Ravens cut him last week. But there was only one team at the top of the list.
“When you get drafted, that’s your team, you make that your home and (Baltimore) has been my home the last 10 years,” Heap said. “It was a fantastic experience.
“But this is really home. This is where I really grew up, where I saw the Cardinals from day one, saw the ups and downs, and I thought what better way to finish your career than take the Cardinals back to the top.”
Upgrading the tight end spot was a priority for the Cards this offseason, but Heap—who signed a two-year contract -- wasn’t one of the potential targets. No one thought the Ravens would be dumping him, least of whom Heap, who said the news that he was being cut was shocking.
“I was not expecting what was coming out of his mouth, I was expecting something else,” Heap said, before acknowledging that it’s not out of the ordinary in the NFL. “I’ve seen a lot of different things happen, and that’s not one of the most crazy things I have seen.”
Besides, it opened the door to come back to Arizona. The team adjusted its plan once Heap became available, and the two sides opened discussions.
Heap actually was in New York visiting the Jets when he made the final decision to be a Cardinal. He had a relationship with Jets coach Rex Ryan – who was defensive coordinator for the Ravens for the bulk of Heap’s time in Baltimore – but the choice didn’t sound difficult.
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“He takes catches away from me, but I’ll let Todd take catches from me,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s a good man, he’s a good friend, so I will let him have those.”
It’s a concept Fitzgerald apparently won’t let Heap forget.
“That was the first thing (Larry) said to me on the phone, working out this offseason,” Heap said. “He was like, ‘Hey you can’t be stealing any of my catches. I need at least 90.’ I said, ‘That’s all right, because all I need is 75.’
“Obviously the more weapons you have the more defenses have to account for. Larry with a guy inside will help him, and I am excited to have that outside threat.”
Heap had 40 catches for 599 yards and five touchdowns last season, something he said was just a “taste” of what he can do. Despite 10 seasons in the league, he said he thinks he still has plenty of football left in him and coach Ken Whisenhunt sounded like he agreed.
“It was pretty impressive what I’ve seen him do on tape last year,” Whisenhunt said. “I know from talking to Larry since we’ve been back in camp that they worked out together and he was impressed with how he saw Todd work.
“I’ve always been a big fan of how he’s played. When we were doing some of our red zone stuff in the walkthrough (Monday), I was already thinking about some of the places we could put him to try to create some match-ups down there in that area.”
Kolb, who developed chemistry with tight end Brent Celek in Philadelphia, said Heap can end up playing a big role for the Cardinals.
If that turned out to be true, it’d be the perfect end to the storybook situation – and Heap may never stop smiling.
“(Being a Card) wasn’t something I was ever planning on doing, but it is cool,” Heap said, “having all the people I grew up with, going to school with, all the great people at Arizona State and now the Cardinals … it’s just exciting.”