Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald celebrates with quarterback Drew Stanton after the two hooked up for a touchdown pass last season in San Francisco.
The late-career renaissance of Larry Fitzgerald, his numbers ballooning back to those among the league leaders, corresponded to the health of quarterback Carson Palmer.
Fitzgerald posted back-to-back 100-catch, 1,000-yard seasons in 2015 and 2016, while Palmer played in 31 of 32 games. And the wide receiver is again on pace to reach those numbers.
But Palmer is unlikely to play anymore this season. Drew Stanton is now on deck. Fitzgerald, a man who in his 13-plus NFL seasons with the Cardinals has caught passes from 16 different quarterbacks, refuses to flinch.
"A lot is made of playing with different quarterbacks and stuff like that," the wide receiver said Thursday. "As a player, you start worrying about who is playing right guard and who's playing running back and who's playing quarterback, you lose focus on what you need to be doing. I need to be getting open and I need to be getting separation and I need to be catching the ball when it is thrown
"You need to let professionals be professionals and do their job and you need to do yours. I'm not worried about Drew. No one is worried about Drew. We have won with Drew and we will win again with Drew."
Fitzgerald has 45 catches for 494 yards and three touchdowns, numbers that do pace out to more than 100 receptions and more than 1,100 yards. At least for this week, he is entering a matchup with Stanton that played out well a year ago.
The one game Palmer missed in 2015/16 was the Cards' Thursday night trip to San Francisco last season. In that game, Stanton completed just 11 passes, but six went to Fitzgerald, for 81 yards and two touchdowns. It was in that game where Stanton became the 13th quarterback to throw a touchdown pass to Fitzgerald.
It's not like Fitzgerald gets a lot of reps with Stanton when Palmer is healthy. But any concern seems limited.
"Drew had those guys out there this week (in practice) so hopefully that translates to good things on Sunday," offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. "I think it's a little bit of a factor but at the end of the day, it's still throwing the ball from Point A to Point B."
There are few star wide receivers in NFL history that have ended up working with so many different
quarterbacks. Fitzgerald, who needs 52 receiving yards Sunday to surpass Tim Brown for sixth place all-time in the NFL, has had excellent runs with Palmer and Kurt Warner.
He's also caught passes from Josh McCown, Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Matt Leinart, Derek Anderson, Stanton, Max Hall, Rich Bartel, John Navarre, Shaun King, Brian St. Pierre, Ryan Lindley, Tim Rattay and Brian Hoyer.
As for Stanton, "it's up to us to go out and make plays for him," Fitzgerald said.
Stanton said chemistry with Fitzgerald will naturally improve now that they will be practicing together. Palmer's rest days in training camp also gave Stanton some bonus days to work with the future Hall of Famer.
"I definitely felt comfortable being able to step into that role and trying to help this offense," Stanton said.
Repeating last year's script in San Francisco wouldn't hurt. Fitzgerald was at the forefront that night, and historically (2,099 yards and 17 TDs in 27 games) he does well against the 49ers.
The Niners did slow Fitzgerald down in the previous meeting this season, with Fitzgerald getting just four receptions for 32 yards – and that was with Palmer. But the last one was a doozy, a 19-yard walkoff touchdown catch in overtime.
"We're all professionals," fellow wide receiver Jaron Brown said. "At the end of the day, we still have a job to do. We still have to catch the ball and Fitz, he's played with plenty of quarterbacks. I don't think it's that big of an adjustment."
Images of wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald's game-winning touchdown catch earlier this season