Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (right) and linebacker Joey Porter consider Fitzgerald's jersey before what Fitzgerald hopes is his final missed game of the season last week.
Larry Fitzgerald would rather not wear a knee brace Sunday, but he'll defer to the powers that be on the subject.
That may be the only thing the Cardinals' Pro Bowl wide receiver isn't sure about right now.
It's been a long preseason for Fitz, starting with his one and only reception that ended up spraining – via a hit by Texans safety Eugene Wilson – his right medial collateral ligament. That came in the first preseason game. While Fitzgerald anxiously waited to get back on the field, he was dragged into the Cards' quarterback situation through comments from friend and ESPN analyst Cris Carter. He wasn't sure who'd be throwing passes to him by the time he returned to the field.
Already many on the outside wondered what kind of year Fitzgerald would have without Kurt Warner throwing him the ball, or without Anquan Boldin as a tag-team partner.
None of it, though, seems to have fazed Fitzgerald. It's time to play football, starting Sunday in St. Louis. He'll be on the field, and that's all that matters.
"My goals are the same as they have always been: To go out and be productive," Fitzgerald said Tuesday after getting some treatment on his knee. "This is the NFL. Things change all the time. You have to deal with it and adjust to it.
"You have to roll with it. That's why they pay me the big bucks."
Even Fitzgerald understands it's impossible to know what is coming this year. He doesn't know how he will click with starting quarterback Derek Anderson – he spent little time playing with Anderson in practice before getting hurt, because Matt Leinart was No. 1 at the time. He's coming off his lowest yardage total in three seasons (1,092) and lowest yards-per-catch of his career (11.3). And there is the possibility the Cards will run more this season, cutting down on Fitzgerald's opportunities.
Then again, given Fitzgerald's talents, it seems unlikely he won't post in the range of at least 85 or 90 receptions again, barring injury. He's still the Cards' best offensive weapon, regardless of the offensive mindset. He's still a beast around the end zone (he had a career-best 13 touchdowns last season). With Anderson's big arm, it would seem likely the Cards will take more shots down the field this season, echoing those bombs he caught over and over during the 2008 playoff run.
"You always have something to prove," Fitzgerald said. "People question you, but that's part of the game, part of sports. You have to produce every single year and this year is no different than any other for me. I just want to improve. I still feel I have a little while to go to get to my prime and I need to go out and perform at a high level."
First will be a needed week of practice. Fitzgerald looked good in Monday's relatively brief workout, although he acknowledged that after missing a month while sidelined, his conditioning isn't where it needs to be. His timing with the quarterbacks was already something he was worried about.
These are all small concerns, however, like the idea of whether or not he'll have the brace.
"I am going to be thrown out there in the fire," Fitzgerald said. "I am going to be ready. And I am going to make it happen the best way I can."
In his lone start against the Rams in his career, Anderson had a passing rating of 143.0: 18-of-25 for 243 yards and three touchdowns in 2007.
Linebacker Joey Porter needs eight sacks to reach the 100-sack plateau in his career.
Fitzgerald has 11 touchdown catches in his last 11 games against the Rams.
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