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Larry Fitzgerald: Cardinals Legend, Almost Raider

Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald makes a one-handed catch against the Raiders in a 2011 preseason game.
Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald makes a one-handed catch against the Raiders in a 2011 preseason game.

Larry Fitzgerald, Oakland Raider.

It could have happened, and for the Cardinals’ long-time wide receiver, there was a time when he thought it would happen. In the 2004 draft, the Chargers selected quarterback Eli Manning first (later trading him to the Giants.) The Raiders held the No. 2 selection. The Cardinals were picking third.

Fitzgerald had already had a good relationship with then-Raiders senior personnel executive Mike Lombardi, having bonded over the fact both had attended Valley Forge Military Academy at the Scouting combine. There, Lombardi told Fitzgerald how the Raiders would use the University of Pittsburgh star.

So when Lombardi’s number popped up on his phone screen when the Raiders were on the clock, Fitzgerald thought he was going to be a member of the Silver and Black.

“He was calling to let me know they were going to go in a different direction,” Fitzgerald said Thursday. “(Raiders owner) Mr. (Al) Davis had decided to go in that (other) direction. It was a real class move to let me know. I appreciated that.”

The Raiders took tackle Robert Gallery, whose greatest success in an average career was playing guard for the Seahawks a few years later. Fifteen seasons in, Fitzgerald is a lock for the Hall of Fame.

After surpassing Terrell Owens for the second-most receiving yards in NFL history last week, Fitzgerald needs eight catches Sunday – against the Raiders – at State Farm Stadium to surpass Jerry Rice's total with the 49ers for the most receptions ever with a single team.

“It’s just a footnote,” Fitzgerald said of his newest upcoming record. “I’ve been here a long time, I’m fortunate. The records, they aren’t that meaningful to me. I don’t ever talk about them, I don’t ever go home, talk to my kids, ‘Hey, you know I’ve caught more passes for one team than anyone in history.’ ‘That’s cool, Dad, can we go play lacrosse now?’ ”

Fitzgerald has 1,274 catches with the Cards, a total that is third-most ever in NFL history behind Rice (1,549) and Tony Gonzalez (1,325).

Fitzgerald has joked before that he wished the Cardinals lost their 2003 season finale so he could have been the No. 1 overall pick in 2004. But whether it was the Raiders or the Cardinals – who at the time were coached by Dennis Green, a man who had known Fitzgerald since he was a youngster in Minnesota – Fitzgerald had no preferences on draft day.

“You just want to be drafted,” Fitzgerald said. “You just want that NFL logo on your shirt. It doesn’t matter what team, really. I just wanted to be drafted and live my dream.”

CURBING ROSEN’S INTERCEPTIONS

In his first three starts, rookie quarterback Josh Rosen threw just one interception, in an impressive feat of ball protection given his inexperienced situation. That number has jumped to six in the past three games.

“That’s something we have to clean up,” offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said. “That’s something that all rookies have to clean up, though. That’s something that, I hate to say it, most of the time they learn by making those mistakes. Those things can’t happen.”

Rosen has eight interceptions in his seven games. In nine starts, fellow rookie QB Sam Darnold has thrown 14 interceptions. Josh Allen has five in six games, and Baker Mayfield has seven picks in eight games.

HUMPHRIES REMAINS SIDELINED

The offensive line could have another new starter Sunday, as left tackle D.J. Humphries (knee) didn't practice for a second straight day. With the roster as it is, rookie Korey Cunningham seems the most likely choice to play for Humphries if the veteran cannot play Sunday.

The other Cardinals who didn't practice were safety Budda Baker (knee), safety Rudy Ford (heel), wide receiver Chad Williams (ankle) and defensive tackle Rodney Gunter, who continued to be absent after the death of his father. Kicker Phil Dawson (right hip), guard Mike Iupati (back), linebacker Robert Nkemdiche (calf) and linebacker Josh Bynes (wrist) were limited.

The Raiders conducted a walk-through on Thursday, but wide receiver Martavis Bryant (knee) and wide receiver Jordy Nelson (knee) wouldn't have practiced. Cornerback Gareon Conley (groin), center Rodney Hudson (ankle), guard Kelechi Osemele (knee), linebacker Kyle Wilber (knee) and cornerback Daryl Worley (shoulder) would have been limited.

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