Wide receiver Michael Floyd (right) is spotted by Larry Fitzgerald while weight-lifting during Fitzgerald's camp at the University of Minnesota back in 2012.
MINNEAPOLIS – Each summer, in the dead of the late offseason, Larry Fitzgerald turns host in his hometown.
The idea, in this three-week window, is to train for training camp. NFL players from all over the league visit Fitz's camp, held at the same University of Minnesota campus where the Cardinals will play the Vikings Saturday in their second preseason game.
But the core of the camp is always Fitzgerald and his Cardinals teammates. Quarterbacks Drew Stanton and Ryan Lindley were there just a month or so ago, as were receivers like Walt Powell, Dan Buckner and Brittan Golden. Michael Floyd, who grew up nearby, always attends. Even tight end John Carlson, who is from the area, has been to the camp multiple years even though he just became a Cardinal this offseason.
"It's kind of like a soft opening," Stanton said. "It pushes those guys (at receiver), and gets our arms in shape."
The structure of the camp makes it best suited for quarterbacks and receivers (and some defensive backs, for that matter).
Given that it's Fitz's production, that's not a surprise. The group opens with on-field conditioning, then run routes and then close out with weight room work. The workouts last a few hours.
"I don't think people realize how competitive it is in practice every day," Fitzgerald said. "To train at that fever pitch, the more effective it is. When I'm running routes next to Jaron (Brown) or Mike (Floyd) and they make a one-handed catch in practice, it's like, 'I want to do that and do it better.' It's much different when you are training by yourself. There's nobody to push you."
The group once did their work in TCF Bank Stadium on campus. But these days, the camp is held on the nearby practice fields for the school. There the players have an indoor field in case of inclement weather, and it's within walking distance of the school's weight room.
When the days are over, usually around noon, the players are invited to hang out at Fitzgerald's house, where they can eat and enjoy the lake with Fitzgerald's private dock.
"We were out there, (Patriots quarterback) Ryan Mallett too, and as quarterbacks we kind of stir up some competition ourselves," Lindley said. "It's cool. That's the thing when you look back, 7-on-7, routes on air, competing, that's the fun part before you start going in training camp."
Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe, Jacksonville's Cecil Shorts and Washington's Andre Roberts were among the other wide receivers who took part this summer.
"You get up there and it is rapid fire," Stanton said. "Very beneficial from my standpoint."
Fitzgerald has long acknowledged he "stole" the idea from mentor and Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter. The Cardinals' Pro Bowl wide receiver usually jam packs his offseason time that isn't in Tempe with various things, like personal vacations to exotic destinations and humanitarian trips to underdeveloped countries for Starkey Hearing and Oxfam.
But before training camp, there is always time spent at home getting ready and working with players who have a similar drive.
"You're with really talented players and you get a really good gauge," Fitzgerald said. "If Mike (Floyd) beats me in a wind sprint, I'll pick it up. If you are just going on a clock, you can't gauge that competitiveness required to be an elite player."
Images from training camp on Thursday