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Fitz Fights Through Season

Notebook: Receiver on verge of franchise mark; Defense hurt by communication

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Receiver Larry Fitzgerald hands some gloves to a fan prior to Monday night's game.




With another five catches – and, despite the roller-coaster of a season he has endured, it is expected to come Sunday against the Rams – Larry Fitzgerald will become the Cardinals' all-time franchise leader in receptions with 587.

Undoubtedly, Fitzgerald thought he would have reached the milestone sooner. But in this season of fits and starts offensively, Fitzgerald's numbers haven't been where he, or anyone else, would have liked – just like the Cardinals' record.

"It's been difficult," Fitzgerald said. "It's been frustrating, not being able to live up to expectations. It's been an eye-opening experience. We need to get better so this does not come every year. That's how I feel about it."

Those frustrations would normally pile up on a player of Fitzgerald's stature. But he hasn't exploded in a press conference, he has said nothing inflammatory. He also hasn't disappeared, sitting in front of his locker once a week and after every game in front of the cameras, trying to explain what he can.

"This hasn't been a very good year for any of us, but Larry has continued to work," Whisenhunt said. "Listen, go back to the first game against (the Rams), he could barely run and he was out there fighting and made a big catch for us in the fourth quarter. That's who Larry is.

"If we are going to get out of this funk, that's when it is important to have guys like Larry. There is no question he is one of the best in the league. To have someone out here working every day, that fights, that is positive, that wants to be a part of it, it goes a long way."

After three straight games of at least six catches and at least 90 yards, Fitzgerald was held to four receptions and 37 yards Monday night. When the offense goes south, that's when the concerns rise up from fans, who know Fitzgerald's contract is up after the 2011 season (and the Cardinals cannot use the franchise tag on him).

The Cardinals want to extend his contract sooner rather than later, and Fitzgerald has said he likes being a Cardinal. What happens is a mystery for now, and there are fans concerned that the Cards' quarterback issues mean he might not stay long-term.

Fitzgerald said he generally doesn't pay attention, however.

"Honestly, I don't watch local TV and don't read the paper," Fitzgerald said. "People come up on the street from time to time and ask me if I am coming back or if I am going, but it's not something I really notice."

It's made a difference that Fitzgerald no longer has quarterback Kurt Warner throwing him passes, but even Fitzgerald understands that not only is an obvious but also a moot point.

"Kurt's a Hall of Famer," Fitzgerald said. "It's not only going to affect me but it's going to affect everybody … It's been an adjustment. (But) we're not going to hang our heads."

PLAYING THE PART ON D


The Cards have struggled defensively – they have fallen to 29th in NFL rankings – and the reasons really haven't changed.

"It still goes back to playing technique and not making mistakes," Whisenhunt said. "It seems like we make a mistake early and it seems to snowball and we have a hard time getting out of it. It is a vicious cycle."

Safety Adrian Wilson said being in the right place – and trusting others to do the same – is an issue.

"We're not sure where guys are supposed to be when we've been running the same calls for 10 weeks or so," Wilson said, adding, "our communication has to be picked up, and that's something that's been hurting us all year."

HYPHEN FOR PRO BOWL


Whisenhunt was asked if LaRod Stephens-Howling had become a Pro Bowl-type special teamer.

"I don't think there is any question about that," Whisenhunt said. "If you look at the game-changing plays he has had, they've gotten lost in the season we have had … but I am excited as heck to have him on our team.

"Every time he touches the ball, more often than not, good things happen."

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