Greg Toler would like to be a starting cornerback for the Cardinals. He’s certainly not going to turn down the chance to work with the first unit. But that also means that much of the time in practice, he’s covering Larry Fitzgerald. That job can be hard.
Fitzgerald has always been good in practice but his turns on the Flagstaff fields this year have made him look particularly sharp. Spectacular, even. Often, Toler is the victim. Monday afternoon was a great example. On one deep pattern, Toler was in perfect position. But Fitzgerald — excellently using the strength from his 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame — squeezed the route and basically boxed Toler out on the run while hauling in the Kevin Kolb pass over his head on the run.
Later, Toler cut in front to get his hand on a ball thrown as Fitzgerald cut across the middle, about 12 yards downfield. It looked like a pass breakup — except Fitzgerald kept hand-fighting in the play, and a moment after some chaos and a bobbling ball, Fitzgerald someone plucked it out of the air and took off downfield, leaving Toler defeated again.
“I look at it like if I am able to catch passes on him every single day and he knows Fitz is doing it, I am going to give him the best look,” Fitzgerald said. “I am trying to get him ready to play, and he is doing the same thing for me. I had the same thing with DRC. That’s what it is all about. It’s not about crushing anyone’s spirit. He gets me sometimes, I get him sometimes, but we are teammates. If he breaks up a pass, I tell him, ‘Greg, that’s a hell of a play.’ If I get one, he’ll say, ‘Fitz, that’s a nice catch.’ It’s about building the team.”
Toler acknowledged battling Fitzgerald isn’t easy, but his relationship with Fitz has impacted him in multiple ways.
“Before every game, he’ll come up to me and say, ‘G, just take it one day at a time,’ ” Toler said. “Hearing that from him … I can honestly say, looking at other teams’ receivers sometimes, not taking anything from their game, I’m like, ‘You’re not number 11.’ He settles me down before the game with any butterflies.”
That’s the ultimate advantage for Toler. Rarely if at all will he take on a receiver in a game as good as the guy he must cover every other day of the week. So Toler will continue to take his lumps and try to improve. If nothing else, he gets practice on one of the most important parts of being a cornerback — quickly forgetting the previous play when it goes against you.
“It’s always for the next play,” Toler said. “Going against him, he is so technique-sound, I know he studies DBs to a ‘T.’ He knows when to lean on you, he knows when to give you the ‘high hat,’ because he knows what DBs are looking for. That’s just him being a great player. And I get to compete every day with him.”
Tags: Greg Toler, Larry Fitzgerald
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