This may end up being a watershed year for the preseason. It feels like fewer and fewer teams are willing to put players of major consequence on the field at all any more, and then when things happen like Cam Newton spraining his foot in what would have been his lone preseason appearance, the risk seems like it just grows.
Larry Fitzgerald has been around a long time. He hasn't played a ton of preseason snaps in his career, although he has usually played some (save for that fourth game.) He's not surprised fewer players are being exposed in the preseason, but he said it's not really new.
"I remember when I first got into the league, I remember LaDainian Tomlinson, certain guys didn't play," Fitzgerald said. "There are more now. Each team is different. I like to play (in preseason), I like to get tackled, I like to get into the flow of the game. I hadn't been tackled since I walked off the field in Seattle last year. That's a long time to not have your body prepared for what's to come."
It hasn't come without a price. In 2010, Fitzgerald went up for a Matt Leinart pass and was drilled in the knees by Texans defensive back Eugene Wilson. The injury didn't keep Fitzgerald out of regular season time, but it certainly made him less than 100 percent (and made him sit the rest of the preseason.) That's the flinch-inducing moment that coaches and fans are so scared about this time of year.
Fitzgerald, however, believes you need preseason games.
"I think it's necessary to be able to identify, guys who are not starters, for them to gain some experience and get their confidence up," Fitzgerald said. "Especially younger guys who would be contributors if something were to happen to the starters. They need that game experience."
It'll be interesting to see what happens with the preseason, and how it might fit into the talks for the upcoming collective bargaining agreement.
-- Kyler Murray is going to be blitzed. He was blitzed by the Raiders, he'll probably be blitzed by the Vikings, and he'll certainly be blitzed by the Lions and Ravens and Panthers, etc., during the regular season. It's what you do to rookie QBs. It's just preseason, and the Cards still aren't going to show a lot offensively, but everyone knows -- Murray and coach Kliff Kingsbury included -- that the spotlight is on Saturday to see if Murray can bounce back after the Raiders game. You aren't winning anything in the preseason. But you'd like a positive vibe or two. And maybe cut down on the penalties by about 90 percent.
-- The offensive line, as constructed in the offseason, will play together in a game for the first time. Yes, the spotlight will be on.
-- Haason Reddick still isn't practicing, so the Cards are down to two preseason practices before a regular-season week begins. So, is Dennis Gardeck still starting in that spot Saturday? Or might defensive coordinator Vance Joseph try someone else?
-- Fitzgerald has been needling new teammate Terrell Suggs since early in training camp about his lack of dedication to Minnesota. Both players were born there, although Suggs moved to Arizona when he was a teen and now identifies as an Arizonan.
"He's a Minnesota guy and he's ashamed of it," Fitzgerald said. "I don't understand it. ... He's one of those guys, he jumps on the winner. Whoever is doing the best. He's a Suns fan but if the Lakers are doing good, he shows up in a Kobe jersey, you know?"
Fitzgerald loves Arizona, but he has never left any doubt how much he loves his home state as well.
-- Michael Crabtree isn't on the trip, but something to note of his 2018 season, in which he had "only" 54 receptions. Crabtree actually had 41 receptions in the first nine games, starts by Joe Flacco, highly productive. Flacco got hurt, and rookie QB Lamar Jackson -- who ran much more than, well, any QB out there in recent memory -- meant a Crabtree drop-off. Crabtree had only 13 receptions in Jackson's seven starts.
-- We'll see where Crabtree fits in the receiving pecking order, but with Kevin White gone, that unit is starting to solidify. I think Trent Sherfield is in. So at this point, what to watch in Minnesota: How much and when does Andy Isabella play? And how much time at receiver do they give Pharoh Cooper and/or Damiere Byrd?
-- I am expecting Chris Jones to start opposite Tramaine Brock at cornerback, with Byron Murphy in the slot. I'm not sure Patrick Peterson plays. There will be a lot of cornerback reps out there to take.