When Larry Fitzgerald signed a contract extension this summer, it was assumed he would play the 2017 season and perhaps, beyond. Of course, it's natural when things aren't going well for the team, to wonder if Fitz will retire, rather than let his body continue to take a beating while he tries to win a Super Bowl ring.
Only one person knows for sure whether retirement is even a thought, and perhaps Larry himself doesn't know yet. Cardinals fans remain hopeful that next Sunday's game against New Orleans won't be his final home game in the NFL. Whether Fitz is truly even thinking about his future, or we in the media have created a non-story, there are way too many reasons for Larry to return in 2017. Easy for me to say, as I am not getting hit over the middle or sticking my face into another man's shoulder pads while blocking in the run game. But here are the three best reasons I can think of for Fitzgerald to keep going.
Reason number 1: Age
Fitzgerald is still young. Yes, he entered the NFL at age 20 and has a lot of years under his belt, but he hasn't had any major injuries. Fitz
is the youngest player in NFL history to reach 1100 catches at the age of 33. Tony Gonzalez, Jerry Rice, Marvin Harrison, and Cris Carter didn't reach that milestone until they were age 35 or older. Larry is in great physical condition, and is always available, playing through injuries to help the Cardinals win.
Reason number 2: Fitz knows his records
Larry is a "team guy" first and foremost. Just watch him block downfield in the run game, or on a screen pass. Still, Fitzgerald, like most Hall of Famers, set lofty personal goals, and love to see them achieved. There's nothing wrong or selfish about that. Fitzgerald is now third all-time in career receptions, passing Marvin Harrison last weekend. He will finish this season needing 200 catches to catch Tony Gonzalez for second place, and 400 to challenge Jerry Rice. I doubt Fitz plays 5 more years, which is what it would take to get Rice. However, 2-3 more years, which still may be asking a lot, would give him a chance to pass Gonzalez. There are other records and goals Fitzgerald will set this season, and records and goals to break next season.
Reason number 3: He's still one of the best
Larry Fitzgerald had maybe his best season in 2015. That's after many thought he was on the downside of his career. Some wondered whether he could have a repeat performance in 2016. His numbers indicate that he has. Fitzgerald already has 88 catches with four games to go. He's on pace for another 1,000-yard season, and leads the team in touchdown catches. While David Johnson has grabbed the spotlight as the Cardinals -- and maybe the NFL's -- best overall player, Fitzgerald is close behind. He's still their most reliable player.
Fitzgerald has many other interests outside of football, from travel, to philanthropy, to his love for the NBA, and of course, his family. Larry can still be involved in extracurricular activities, while playing another season. Or two. Or three. I wouldn't put it past him. I hope he does.