Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has decided he will play in 2018.
Larry Fitzgerald is coming back.
The 11-time Pro Bowl wide receiver finally ended speculation Thursday via his new coach Steve Wilks, who revealed during an interview on 98.7, Arizona's Sports Station, that Fitzgerald told him Wednesday he was indeed going to play again in 2018.
It will be Fitzgerald's 15th NFL season. Despite the fact he will turn 35 on Aug. 31, Fitzgerald has enjoyed three of his best seasons the past three years.
"Funny you ask that question," Wilks said when asked if there was any news on the Fitz front. "I spoke with Larry last night, and it's a very exciting time for all of us, to all the Arizona Cardinals fans around the world, it's exciting that Larry mentioned to me last night he is coming back for the 2018 season."
The feeling had been that Fitzgerald would play again, in part because he was willing to sign a contract extension in early November for 2018. At the time, he would not commit to playing, and once Bruce Arians retired, it made
sense for him to wait to see what the new coaching staff would look like.
The Cardinals hired Wilks to be the head coach Jan. 22, and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was hired soon after. Both noted that, in conversations with Fitzgerald, he sounded "excited" about the changes -- leading to the thought Fitzgerald indeed would return.
"I'm extremely excited," Wilks said. "He's a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. Couldn't be more excited to have Larry coming back next year. ... He is a pillar not only of this community but in the National Football League. What he represents, on and off the football field, is phenomenal."
At the recent Super Bowl, Fitzgerald did sound optimistic about the new staff but would not commit to a return. Fitzgerald was part of the winning pro-am team at the PGA event at Pebble Beach over the weekend. He flew out Wednesday night to New Zealand, and previously said he would also be visiting South Korea during this year's round of his annual offseason travel.
Fitzgerald made the decision not knowing who the Cardinals will have at quarterback.
"Personally, I felt honored," Wilks said in hearing Fitzgerald's decision. "To know that he's really committed to come
back where we are standing right now. Of course we don't have a quarterback on the roster. It just shows you about his character and the kind of person he is.
"He's going to be a difference-maker for us next season. And we are working hard to rectify the quarterback situation."
Fitzgerald tied his own franchise record with 109 catches this season, in the process becoming the oldest player in NFL history to reach the 100-catch plateau in a season. He added 1,156 yards and six touchdowns.
Fitzgerald's return means he has a chance to rise to No. 2 in NFL history in both receptions and receiving yards this coming season. Fitzgerald needs 92 catches to surpass tight end Tony Gonzalez's 1,325 career receptions, not a huge stretch considering Fitzgerald has averaged 108 grabs the past three seasons. He only needs 390 yards to pass Terrell Owens' 15,934 for second all-time.
Jerry Rice, in first place in both categories, is likely unreachable in both catches (1,549) and yards (22,895).
Fitzgerald's active consecutive games streak with a catch is at 211 straight, tying him with Gonzalez for second-longest in NFL history. If Fitzgerald were to play in all 16 games in 2018, he would tie kicker Jim Bakken with the most games played in franchise history at 234.
"Last night, I was partying myself (with the news)," Wilks said. "We've got one of the greatest players ever coming back."
Images of wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald's game-winning touchdown catch earlier this season