Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald sent a text message to Paul Goldschmidt on Wednesday, hoping the Diamondbacks All-Star would dispel rumors of a reported trade.
When Goldschmidt confirmed he was indeed heading to St. Louis, Fitzgerald was bummed. The duo forged a strong bond the last several years as the faces of the local MLB and NFL franchises.
Fitzgerald is happy Goldschmidt is poised to sign a lucrative contract soon, but wishes it was in Phoenix.
"He's a wonderful person," Fitzgerald said. "He's a great ambassador to this community and (was) a wonderful ambassador to the Diamondbacks for a very long time. I'm going to miss him, personally. I'd get a chance to watch him and go see him in spring training and talk to him all the time – and beat up on him on the golf course. He's terrible out there. It's going to be big shoes to fill there, trying to fill his role."
Goldschmidt's departure is the latest reminder of Fitzgerald's exceptional 15-year tenure in Arizona. As other superstars come and go, Fitzgerald has been the constant in the Valley. He arrived as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2004 draft and has carved out a Hall of Fame career with the Cardinals.
"Normally that's the all-time greats, when you look at guys that play 15, 16, 14, 17 years for one organization," offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said.
With his first catch on Sunday against the Lions, Fitzgerald will break Jerry Rice's record of most receptions with one team in NFL history. Fitzgerald said there was never a grand decision to spend his entire career with the Cardinals.
"I never really looked at it like that," Fitzgerald said. "This is where I started. I kind of appreciate being the foundation of something. When I got in the league, there was not a lot of respect for the Cardinals."
Fitzgerald helped turn things around alongside a stellar draft class that included defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, linebacker Karlos Dansby and defensive end Antonio Smith.
"We were like, 'Man, we want to change the narrative here,' and that has always been the mindset I've had," Fitzgerald said. "Why not do it where you started?"
Fitzgerald has not yet said if 2018 will be his last in the NFL, but even as a pending free agent, it seems a foregone conclusion that any additional years will be with the only team he has ever known.
Fitzgerald said he has never felt the urge to chase a ring by going to a projected contender, pointing out that those best-laid plans often go awry.
"It's not like basketball," Fitzgerald said. "You know come hell or high water, at the end of the season Golden State is going to be playing against the Houston Rockets. You can bet it. You know Boston is probably going to come out of the East against Toronto. You can do that. In the National Football League, you have no clue who is going to win."
If he never does get that elusive championship – the Cardinals made the Super Bowl after the 2008 season but lost a heartbreaker to the Steelers – Fitzgerald won't feel like anything is missing from his career.
"This is not tennis," Fitzgerald said. "This is not golf. This is not an individual sport. This is a team sport. It takes everybody collectively to be able to win. I'm not a quarterback. I don't touch the ball every single snap, so it's not like I play a position where I can influence it on that level. Obviously I'm a big part of what a team can do, but I think my position is viewed a little bit differently when you're assessing it purely off of championships."
CUNNINGHAM ADDED TO INJURY REPORT
Korey Cunningham, who is the starting left tackle with D.J. Humphries now on injured reserve, was added to the injury report on Thursday with a hip injury. He was limited in practice.
Defensive end Markus Golden (knee) was also limited, while safety Budda Baker (knee) and linebacker Deone Bucannon (chest) did not practice for a second straight day.
For the Lions, running back Kerryon Johnson (knee) did not practice, while those limited were linebacker Trevor Bates (ankle), linebacker Devon Kennard (hip), defensive end Ziggy Ansah (neck), fullback Nick Bellore (ankle), wide receiver Kenny Golladay (quadriceps), cornerback Darius Slay (ankle) and quarterback Matthew Stafford (back).
Past images between the Cardinals and Sunday's opponent in the regular season opener, the Detroit Lions