Carson Palmer was talking Ring of Honor and a career long done, but the former quarterback was thinking optimistically about his former teammate, the wide receiver that doesn’t seem to have slowed much at all.
“He’s still producing and he’s relatively young,” Palmer said of Larry Fitzgerald. “I retired at (age) 38 and I hope he gets to that number. I don’t know if I’d be surprised (at that) or not. He loves the game so much.”
The 35-year-old Fitzgerald – he’ll turn 36 at the end of August – smiled at the thought of his friend.
“I don’t know about that,” Fitzgerald said Wednesday, after the team’s OTA.
But Fitzgerald plows through his 16th NFL offseason prep like he always has, regardless of new coaches, a new quarterback, and the wear and tear on his body. He has shown to almost every voluntary workout, even though he could have played his future-Hall-of-Famer card and stayed out of the sun.
It was suggested the arrival of Kyler Murray at quarterback might alter Fitzgerald’s long-term should-I-play-or-not outlook. The veteran won’t look at it that way.
“I feel young regardless,” he said. “I don’t feel like the old man. I feel like I’m good.”
Fitzgerald has reasons to be engaged. He’s learning a new offense – again – and the perfectionist in him drives him to flatten the learning curve. He praised new wide receivers coach David Raih for his enthusiasm and knowledge, and that doesn’t even factor in the return of receivers consultant Jerry Sullivan, with whom Fitzgerald has a long history.
Sullivan teaches technique with the best of them, and while the younger receivers on the roster are trying to absorb it all, Fitzgerald too acknowledged his own needs in that area.
“It’s actually embarrassing and kind of exciting because I haven’t been utilizing stuff he taught me from years back,” Fitzgerald said. “I got into bad habits. Now I feel kind of reinvigorated using his technique again and seeing how effective it is (after) not having him in my ear five or six years.”
The offense is also tantalizing. From what Murray can bring – “There’s no reason why anyone should have any doubt he can do it on this stage,” Fitzgerald said – to the overall scope of the passing game, Fitzgerald knows the ball figures to be thrown often and he’ll have a good chance to post impressive numbers, even at age 36.
He had 69 receptions for 734 yards and six touchdowns a year ago, lower numbers that were more indicative of the overall problems on offense than Fitzgerald’s talent level.
“I am hoping he enjoys the process and enjoys what the offense turns into and gives him a reason to stick around a few more years,” coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “But he practices and he plays like he’s trying to make the team, and that’s the biggest compliment I can give him. He doesn’t need it, and you’d think he’s starving out there. It’s impressive to watch.”
Referencing his old friend Palmer, Fitzgerald knows that level of commitment gets harder to achieve with each passing year.
“The older you get … you’ve accomplished so much, you’ve made plenty of money to take care of your family forever,” Fitzgerald said. “The motivation is just to be a winner.
“You’re young, and you’re fighting for Pro Bowls and fighting for recognition from your peers and around the league, and new contracts, and all those things keep you sharp. As you get older the motivation gets a little different. Add the element that you don’t recover as fast, you need to come in early and stay longer for treatment … it takes a lot more to maintain the greatness.”
Images from Wednesday's offseason work