Larry Fitzgerald (left) and Anquan Boldin were together on the Cards' practice fields for a final time Saturday during Kurt Warner's charity flag football tournament.
Kurt Warner, now an ex-Cardinal, listened to the notion that his retirement seemed to have a trickle-down effect on the roster this offseason as key pieces of the team departed.
"Now you're gonna put that on me?" Warner said, feigning irritation. "I leave the game and I'm still getting blamed for stuff."
As part of Warner's annual charity flag football tournament, he was back at the Cardinals' complex, as were a handful of his ex-teammates – including wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who is now Warner's ex twice removed after being traded to the Baltimore Ravens Friday.
Boldin's departure, along with the decisions of free agents Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle to sign with the Dolphins and Giants, respectively, dealt a blow to the Cards at the beginning of the offseason. But the players who are still Cardinals insisted they will be OK.
They have no other choice.
"We've got to have guys step up and fill the shoes," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "That's the NFL. We're not the only team that's been beat up by trades and free agency. It happens every year. It happened to be our year this year. We still have to play the games."
Said defensive tackle Darnell Dockett on KTAR, "This won't stop the show here."
Boldin spent his final time on the Cardinals' practice fields throwing rather than catching as his part as the pro during Warner's tourney. During the lunch break, he called his trade "bittersweet" while agreeing with coach Ken Whisenhunt's assessment from Friday that it was time for him to part ways with the Cardinals.
"It will be tough to say goodbye but I am also looking forward to the future," said Boldin, who got a three-year, $25 million extension tacked on to the final year of his current contract.
"When I first got out here that was my main goal, to change this to a winning organization and one that was respected around the league," Boldin said. "I think, leaving now, I have done that."
Fitzgerald, asked about the trade, said he was going to miss Boldin, bluntly adding, "Understatement of the day." Early Doucet, the receiver who will be expected to fill Boldin's role, said he was surprised to see Boldin traded after nothing materialized despite rumors the offseason before.
"Anquan is like a brother to me and I have learned a lot from him these last few years," said Doucet, watching the tournament as a spectator. "I am sad to see him go but it is more opportunity for me to grow and become the type of player he is."
Warner said he obviously didn't have any intention of having his retirement possibly affect other decisions. But he made clear some things may simply be inevitable.
The Cardinals have been winning, Warner said, and winning breeds recognition for individual players. Those players, when the timing is right, can capitalize – which is what Dansby and Rolle did.
"If we didn't have success, if we were 2-14, 4-12, those guys aren't getting the same recognition, the same opportunities," Warner said. "That's what I think the organization has to be proud of. We set ourselves up to lose guys because we have a lot of good football players. That is part of the business, and everywhere I have been it's been part of the business."
That doesn't necessarily help in the short term, of course. Dockett said that while he was shocked at Friday's events, the current Cards "can't dwell on the things we don't have."
"The guys who come in have big shoes to fill," Dockett said. "We have seen some of the best at those positions. We won't settle for less."
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