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Larry Fitzgerald Wants Victories, Not Targets

Wide receiver unconcerned about slow individual start to season

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald had zero receiving yards against the Lions for the first time since 2004.
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald had zero receiving yards against the Lions for the first time since 2004.

After a one-catch, no-receiving-yards performance in Week 3, Larry Fitzgerald opened his press conference on Thursday by bemoaning the lack of connection between quarterback and receiver.

But this had nothing to do with Kyler Murray.

At the outset of Cardinals practice a few hours prior, the veteran receiver tossed a football in the vicinity of Arizona Republic sportswriter Bob McManaman -- who did not come close to hauling it in.

"Bob," Fitzgerald said with an effervescent smile, "why didn't you catch that pass I threw you today, man?"

As the media session rolled on, the spotlight quickly turned back toward Fitzgerald, because while journalists failing to make a play is normal, the lack of production from one of the greatest receivers in NFL history is not.

The 37-year-old Fitzgerald has only 12 receptions for 84 yards through three games after the negligible output against the Lions. In both categories, Fitzgerald is on pace for career lows.

"I'm not concerned about my production at all, honestly," Fitzgerald said. "I've never been one to politick, or ask or request plays or passes. I don't really operate like that. I've operated the same way since I was six years old and I don't ever intend to change."

Fitzgerald may not be putting any pressure on Kliff Kingsbury to feed him, but the Cardinals coach has said multiple times in the past five days that he needs to get the future Hall of Famer more involved.

Fitzgerald finished Sunday with three targets, fewer than DeAndre Hopkins (12 targets), KeeSean Johnson (7) and Andy Isabella (4).

"He'll have a prominent role moving forward," Kingsbury said. "It was just a bad day of playcalling by me. I didn't get him the ball."

Fitzgerald was surprised to hear Kingsbury defend him so vociferously, saying no coach has ever taken the blame for not featuring him enough.

"As a player, I do appreciate him saying that, but I don't want my head coach answering questions about one individual being not targeted, targeted, or his production," Fitzgerald said. "This is a team game. It's a great offense and we have many playmakers that deserve the opportunity to be showcased in this system. They've worked tirelessly to put themselves in position to be successful, and wherever the ball goes, it goes."

When some star receivers aren't getting targeted, they don't do a lot to help the team. That's not the case with Fitzgerald, as an impressive aspect of his game is the willingness to attack non-receiving duties with the same gusto he has for catching the ball.

With Hopkins the clear No. 1 receiver now, Fitzgerald has been routinely asked to block on bubble screens, clear paths in the running game and chip edge rushers before releasing on his route.

"That's one thing I've always admired about Fitz," left tackle D.J. Humphries said. "My rookie year (in 2015) they had just kind of gotten him into the blocking role in the old offense we were in (under Bruce Arians), and he took it in stride. You could tell he was like, 'This is not something that's natural for me, but I'll do whatever I can to help the team win.'

"And that's how he feels about helping on the edge. There are a lot of times when Larry is not even supposed to do that and he's like, 'You want some (help) here? I'm going to give it to you if you want it, on my way out. I've got to run past him anyway."

There's no doubt Fitzgerald would love to be hauling in a ton of passes, but when it comes to film review after games, that's not the only way he measures his worth.

"Every single play is designed to go certain places, and you're asked to do a certain assignment on each individual play," Fitzgerald said. "I pretty much watch to make sure I'm doing my job -- no matter what that job is -- to the highest level."

If actions speak louder than words, Fitzgerald passed that test, too, on Sunday.

Running back Chase Edmonds said he had no clue Fitzgerald wasn't prominently involved in the offense until after the game, because the star receiver's demeanor and effort level never changed.

"You know Fitz," Edmonds said. "He's a legend. He's a G.O.A.T. He's always going to lead first by example, and vocally."

Before the season began, Fitzgerald said he would retire if the Cardinals won the Super Bowl, and he is intent on contributing in any way possible to reach that goal.

If that means a huge receiving day, great. If that means blocking or occupying defenders to allow others to get open, that's fine, too.

"My only objective is to win, and do what's required to win," Fitzgerald said. "That's the only thing I'm upset about last week. We didn't come out of that game with a win."