Last year, Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts had a breakout season not coincidentally, he believed, after attending Larry Fitzgerald’s Minnesota workouts (where Shorts also decided to swim for the first time in the lake behind Fitz’s house, FYI). He noted recently that Fitz “works like he is broke.” So, after an offseason of change in which Fitzgerald for the first time is trying to learn three receiver positions so coach Bruce Arians can move him around more, Fitzgerald was asked Thursday exactly why he’d work like that.
“This last year would be enough to drive anybody over the edge,” Fitzgerald said. “I just don’t ever want a repeat of what happened last year. You put that kind of stuff on tape, it’s hard to keep a job.”
There were some laughs in Fitz’s impromptu, I’m-about-to-leave-until-camp-so-ask-what-you-need press conference. But talking about last year, and talking about why Fitz hasn’t talked a ton this offseason, Fitzgerald was definitely serious.
“It’s ‘Prove it’ for me,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s not about the talking and the soundbites. It’s about getting back to the level of play I am accustomed to, and the level of play everybody is accustomed to.”
That apparently is starting, via Arians and assistant head coach Tom Moore, with moving Fitzgerald all over the place. That has made this offseason uncomfortable for Fitz. He’s played one spot since high school. Coaches have moved him in motion, but he’s never really lined up in the slot or in other facets of the passing game. Arians made it clear that was going to change, and Arians had huge success doing it with Reggie Wayne a year ago. The goal is obviously to make sure Fitzgerald doesn’t have another 71-catch, 798-yard season like 2012.
“Do you want 100 balls? If you want 100 balls, move around,” Arians said. “If they know where you are at it’s easier to take you out of your game. Reggie bought in right away last year and Larry is buying in now. It’s hard because when you are a veteran of their stature, you don’t like making mistakes. You get embarrassed. You have to put that behind you and learn multiple positions.”
There have been moments, especially earlier in the offseason, when Arians got on Fitzgerald during practice. Fitz, save for the Todd Haley years, rarely heard such things on the practice field. Now, that was mostly because he was so very good at what he did. He’s learning all over again.
“I’m a bit of a creature of habit,” Fitzgerald said. “I’ve played the same position since I was a junior in high school, I’ve never had to move around, and I’ve gotten good at it. I think we all resist change to a certain degree, especially if you have had a little success. But as I have gone through these offseason workouts I have definitely become more receptive of it.
“Coach Arians has a wealth of knowledge with the defense that will be thrown at us and he tells me there will be a lot more opportunities to make plays inside and it will give my teammates like Andre Roberts and Michael (Floyd) and Rob Housler and guys like that better matchups as well. It’s not all about me, it’s about making this team go.”
As much as Fitzgerald will help Carson Palmer, he too can learn something from Palmer, who threw to a couple of pretty good receivers in Chad Johnson/Ochocinco and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Moore has backgrounds with Peyton Manning, Wayne and Marvin Harrison, along with Steelers Hall-of-Famers John Stallworth and Lynn Swann. Fitzgerald is hoping that knowledge comes in handy and was frequently talking with Moore prior to workouts this entire offseason.
Make no mistake, one of the reasons Fitzgerald was so salty about last year was the drop in his production. The losses were the biggest reason, but Fitzgerald wants to be considered one of the best and that’s tough when you aren’t even reaching 800 yards. If there are ways to avoid that again, Fitzgerald will buy in. He’ll work as if he’s broke — which is most certainly is far, far from — and figure out new positions. He’ll probably mention to Palmer too that single coverage means get Fitz the ball — just not right now.
“I’m too busy trying to learn where I’ve got to be and figure out my assignments,” Fitzgerald said. “Once I have that down, then I’ll try to get in his ear a little bit.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Cecil Shorts, Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne, Tom Moore
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