As Larry Fitzgerald goes year to year with his career these days -- "I'm just trying to get to February in one piece," he said the other day -- the constant speculation and questions about how long he will go will linger. Fitz understands that. But the landscape has changed from where it was six months ago, or a year ago. Maybe that will alter where Fitz's head is at the end of the season.
There was so much unknown for a long time. Bruce Arians was close to retirement one way or another, so Fitz knew there would be a new coaching staff -- and a new offense -- on the way. Carson Palmer was coming to the end too, and Fitz, like everyone, didn't see where the successor was coming from.
Now we are here. Fitzgerald seems to have meshed well with Steve Wilks. He has worked hard on learning Mike McCoy's offense (perhaps understanding how difficult it had been for him to assimilate into B.A.'s offense in 2013.) Most importantly, the Cardinals signed a veteran quarterback who has shown he can throw the ball (when healthy) in Sam Bradford, who is only 30. And they drafted Josh Rosen in the first round. Suddenly, optimism reigns. If Fitz was worried about going through a QB dark period again (like 2010-12), that seems to have been alleviated.
Maybe that means there's more reason to stick around beyond 2018.
Fitzgerald isn't picking a quarterback. He doesn't need to, and has he has proven with all the QBs he has caught passes from since 2004, he's shown it doesn't matter.
"I'm more focused on what I need to be doing so I can help the quarterback competition," Fitzgerald said."Whoever is throwing it to me, I have to be there and make the plays like I always have. That's really where my mind is at. I can't worry about who is throwing to me. I never have. Been a (QB) carousel for 14, 15 years and I never really worry about who is throwing the football. I just need to be ready for whoever is throwing the football."
Then there are the records, the big-time records, within reach. Fitzgerald needs 390 yards to surpass new Hall of Famer Terrell Owens for second-most receiving yards ever. He needs 92 receptions to surpass Tony Gonzalez for the second-most receptions ever. He'd trail only Jerry Rice in both categories. That would be meaningful -- even though Fitz waves off the discussion.
"Records, that's always something you don't like to talk about," he said. "It's never really in the framework of the team. If it comes, it comes, if it doesn't, it doesn't. Like I always am, I take it in stride. You don't play 15 years for personal records. You play for something bigger."
And perhaps he plays for those bigger goals even longer.