Kliff Kingsbury knew about Larry Fitzgerald, obviously. But he really didn't know Fitz until the Cardinals got on the field for the first time at the recent voluntary veterans minicamp.
"The one that jumps out at me, Larry is out there running full-speed routes every time," Kingsbury said after his first practice. "If the ball isn't thrown to him, he turns and wheels and goes to block. To have a guy who does everything right every single play, for a young receivers and any young players (to see), it's incredible."
Fitz's reputation precedes him. Yet each time he's gotten around a new coaching staff -- and by now, that's been a few different receivers coaches over the years -- there is a fresh perspective. You wouldn't call it amazement, because that implies it was completely unexpected. But there is little question that once Fitz is seen up close and personal, he has impressed, even with the reputation he already carries.
"I've been around some veterans that are not nearly as compliant or humble," said Cardinals wide receivers coach David Raih, who is only three years older than Fitzgerald. "Fitz is a lead-by-example, show-respect guy and takes that to the nth degree. He's an incredible communicator and he still wants to learn. He comes in every day like it's his first season, and I'm not exaggerating."
Raih said the receivers had a non-scheduled 7 a.m. walkthrough Wednesday, before the players were asked to attend the annual charity golf tournament. Fitzgerald was the first one at the walkthrough.
The Cardinals can use the leadership in a wide receivers room devoid of much experience. This is all voluntary work at this time of year, mind you. Phase Two even -- no helmets, no defense. No one would flinch if Fitz wasn't around, not going into a 16th year carrying the resumé he does. Yet there he has been.
"He calls in the morning, he calls at night, he's the epitome of, 'Coach, never stop coaching me,' " Raih said. "It's remarkable for the young guys to see. Coach King and I hope he'll play another three years."