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The Face For National TV

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 With smoke machines belching in the background, Larry Fitzgerald films part of his "Monday Night Football" sequence for ESPN cameras.

The producer asked Larry Fitzgerald to mug a little bit for the camera, and Fitzgerald hesitated at first. It wasn't him, but he played along anyway.

When the Cardinals' Pro Bowl wide receiver was given a script of a monologue later, however, Fitz flinched at some of the copy he was seeing for the first time – "I shatter egos" was one potential line – and asked for a rewrite.

It was a Tuesday, and a few weeks out from the Cardinals' "Monday Night

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Football" game against the 49ers, ESPN came to town to shoot a piece on Fitzgerald to run during the pregame show. The crew rented out the gym at an Ahwatukee YMCA (just a short distance from Fitz's house) for a segment called "Silent but lethal."

Emerging from a closet with smoke machines was OK. After a minute, so was making faces for the camera. But the script had to change. Fitz wanted to avoid saying things he simply wouldn't normally.

"Not many people know me," Fitzgerald said. "People watch TV around the country and I don't want to be perceived as an arrogant guy. That's not my demeanor, that's not how I play. I have a respect for my opponents. I just do my job."

He's doing it well, of course. With 43 receptions for 661 yards and five touchdowns, Fitzgerald is headed toward a second straight Pro Bowl appearance. He is now being mentioned often as arguably the best wide receiver in the game, an impressive leap considering he just signed his new contract this offseason that will pay him $40 million over four years.

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Fitzgerald has earned his money and has worked to get better. The angst created in the offseason before he and the team finally came to terms seems so long ago.

The Cards are winning so games, they are in position to win the NFC West, and Fitzgerald – this time around – is the face of the team for their nationally televised game.

ESPN producer Lydelle King thought of Fitz for the piece, which should air in the final 10 to 15 minutes of the pregame show. The network already did it with players like Baltimore's Ray Lewis and Minnesota's Adrian Peterson.

The shoot ate up more than an hour of Fitzgerald's off-day, but that was OK. Fitzgerald answered some questions off the cuff, made his faces, came in and out of the closet and another set of doors. And once he was more comfortable with the monologue, everything came together smoothly.

"Some things are not me, some things are," Fitzgerald said. "But it's good. It's positive publicity for the Cardinals.

"We are a good football team and I think we are starting to get some recognition around the league that we should the way we have been playing."

CRAZY WIDEOUT PROJECTIONS

Basing a projection of a player's season statistical totals is always dicey; games change and so do seasons. Injuries occur. But not only is quarterback Kurt Warner on pace to have one of his best seasons, he now has three wide receivers that are on pace to have huge statistical years as well.

Fitzgerald is Hawaii-bound with stats that would give him a 98-catch, 1,511-yard, 11-touchdown season. Steve Breaston (85-1,061-2) and Anquan Boldin (101-1,201-19) are also heading toward 1,000-yard seasons. Boldin's monster numbers would come despite missing two games.

NEW TIGHT END

The Cardinals, dealing with the lingering injuries of tight ends Ben Patrick (knee) and Leonard Pope (ankle), signed free-agent tight end Stephen Spach Tuesday and cut safety Oliver Celestin. Spach has played with the Eagles and Patriots.

SOME NUMBERS

The Cardinals lead the NFL in red-zone visits (34), red-zone points (161) and red-zone touchdowns (21).

Despite the holes in the running game, the Cardinals have just 10 rushes for negative yards this season, the lowest total in the NFL.

Quarterback Kurt Warner as a touchdown pass in 15 consecutive games, tying San Diego's Philip Rivers for the longest active NFL streak.


Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 10/28/08.

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