It was Thursday, and those are the days Larry Fitzgerald talks to the media. Normally, a wide receiver with six catches over four games doesn’t draw a crowd, but given Fitz’s stature, it’s even more important these days to listen to what Fitzgerald has to say more than any other time because both the team’s season and his season have fallen way, way short of expectations.
And as usual, Fitzgerald handled the time well. He was asked what he thought about whether quarterback Kevin Kolb would return in 2013. “I would love to see everybody come back, but that’s not my decision,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s for management to take care of. Hopefully I can come back next year. Hopefully they bring me back. My season hasn’t been that great.”
It provided a chuckle, even if it was true. Fitz has dropped a few passes this season that in past years he seemed to come up with. But as has been chronicled many times, his numbers — 57 receptions, 652 yards, four touchdowns — aren’t reflective of his ability as much as the struggles at quarterback. Every week, Fitz compiles the plays of the top receivers in the league, guys like Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, Houston’s Andre Johnson, New England’s Wes Welker, Chicago’s Brandon Marshall, Tampa’s Vincent Jackson and Atlanta’s Roddy White among them, and studies their work. He tries to pick up tips, but he can’t steal the throws they are getting from their QBs, and his numbers will fall far short of those other elite receivers.
“When we didn’t have a starting quarterback, in a season when I caught TD passes with five quarterbacks – that’s crazy,” Calvin Johnson told detroitlions.com. “He’s in a situation where they don’t have a steady quarterback situation. You don’t have a chance to get the ball.”
Fitz isn’t going to complain. He knows it makes no difference. Besides, he can let others (like Calvin Johnson did) do it for him. It’s not rocket science to analyze his frustration. But he also wants to power through the end of the season and set a good example.
“Certain days I am up, certain days I am down. I’m human,” Fitzgerald said. “I try my best to be a professional every day, come to work and give it my best. It’d be easy to hang your head and be disappointed but as a teammate you can’t do that to your teammates. You have to keep practicing and working hard and trying to improve. That’s my mindset. I never feel sorry for myself.”
Tags: Andre Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Roddy White, Vincent Jackson, Wes Welker
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There has been plenty of talk this offseason (and, unfortunately, plenty of time for such talk) about lists and the best players in the league, yada, yada, yada. That includes wide receiver, a position in which Larry Fitzgerald is always in the discussion, but, in large part of who has been throwing him the ball, not at the top.
That changed with this grade scale from profootballfocus.com, which gives Fitz the nod (barely) over Houston’s Andre Johnson over the last three-year period. PFF’s metric includes the playoffs (which boosts Fitz because his phenomenal 2008 postseason remains in play) and it also “altered the weighting of our grades so that all other areas (pass blocking, run blocking and rushing) are worth a quarter that of actual receiving.” Which shows that Fitz has been more well-rounded.
Says PFF, “When the Cardinals made it to the Super Bowl, Fitzgerald was our top ranked receiver after a monstrous year and tremendous post season. He still found himself near the top (seventh) when the Kurt Warner-led Cardinals went to the playoffs, and improved on that with a sixth place finish last year despite some horrible quarterback play. Essentially, whether you’re feeding him caviar or out of the garbage, Fitz is a receiver hungry to make the most of any opportunity. The best hands of any of the top receivers.”
Tags: Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald
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This year, EA Sports has decided to make a contest out of who will be their cover photo for this year’s version of the Madden football video game. Given the past season, I guess I assumed Aaron Rodgers was a shoo-in for Madden ’12, but no, Rodgers is just one of 32 candidates — one from every team. It’s also set up in bracket form, so we aren’t just talking about the total number of votes.
There are many cover possibilities that make sense — Rodgers, Matt Ryan, DeMarcus Ware, Patrick Willis, Adrian Peterson, Julius Peppers, Andre Johnson — and others that I look at and think, ‘A good player, but a cover?’ — guys like Peyton Hillis, Jake Long, Josh Freeman. There are repeat candidates, guys who have already been on the cover before, like Drew Brees, Michael Vick and, for the Cardinals, Larry Fitzgerald.
But just when you find a couple of head-scratchers (The Bengals’ Carlos Dunlap, the Bills’ Steve Johnson, the Patriots’ Danny Woodhead, Tim Tebow?) you end up freezing on the option for Seattle. Apparently, they have no player worthy of the honor, at least none important enough to usurp “The 12th Man” — the name the Seahawks give to their crowd (which yes, can be very loud, but is generally a non-factor if the team is lousy — just like any other crowd).
The 12th Man faces the aforementioned Willis in the first round, so I’d guess Willis will be the one to advance there. But still, the Qwest crowd? Really? Not, oh, maybe Mike Williams? Marshawn Lynch?
Besides, how exactly does the Madden curse affect that group — I’d be afraid of a natural disaster on game day.
Tags: 49ers, Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson, Andre Johnson, Carlos Dunlap, Danny Woodhead, DeMarcus Ware, Drew Brees, Julius Peppers, Larry Fitzgerald, Madden, Matt Ryan, Michael Vick, Parick Willis, Rams, Seahawks, Steve Johnson, Tim Tebow
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The Cardinals head out on to the field about 10:30 this morning, but until then …
– There was some concern about a rookie or two having to miss some time at OTAs because of their college graduation dates (like Beanie missing all of OTAs last summer) but the class looks intact. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said during minicamp the situation of quarterback John Skelton had to be “clarified” and apparently it has been, because Skelton was here yesterday.
– Seeing the new issue with Andre Johnson in Houston and his contract problems just serves as a reminder that the Cards aren’t the only team that deals with such things. Since I believe Darnell Dockett will be out there today (I would hope, after he’s shown up the last couple of weeks), it’s nice that for the most part, the Cards aren’t dealing with those problems (technically, since Deuce Lutui is unsigned, he’s not skipping anything).
– Kurt Warner is getting his number retired. Nope, not by the Cards. By the Iowa Barnstormers, the Arena Football League team with which he jump-started his professional career. I was able to cover Warner’s last AFL game ever, an ArenaBowl loss to the Arizona Rattlers at then-America West Arena in 1994 1997 in which the game turned when Rattlers star Hunkie Cooper picked off a Warner pass over the middle and returned it for a touchdown. One of the things I always remembered was talking to Warner afterward and thinking how gracious he was in defeat. That opinion certainly never changed in covering him for five seasons as a Card.
Tags: Andre Johnson, Darnell Dockett, Deuce Lutui, John Skelton, Kurt Warner, OTAs
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Tim Hightower had one of those smiles, one of those Sure-I’m-happy-but-I-know-better-than-to-be-too-happy looks.
“We won,” the Cardinals’ running back said. “At the end of the day, you want to play better and we’ve got to play better, but in this league when you get wins, we appreciate it, thank God for it, learn from it, and move on.”
That’s probably the best way to view Sunday’s 28-21 win over the Texans. Fans didn’t get cheated in terms of having their heart tested; they got 21 points (and what should’ve been 28) in the first half, and then, just when those hearts may have been ripped out, they got DRC’s Pick-6 and a goal-line stand. Whew. But here we are, Sunday night, and the Cards are right where they hoped they’d be when the day dawned. They are 2-2, the 49ers were run out of Candlestick Park (is that what they are still calling it?) by the Falcons, and the Cards are back to controlling their own destiny starting with a trip to Seattle next weekend.
“It’s gonna be a helluva week this week at practice because this is personal between us and Seattle,” defensive end Darnell Dockett said. “We know for a fact we’ll get their best shot and I’ll probably send Matt Hasselbeck a Twitter message later this week, so stay tuned.”
But first, cleaning up some thoughts from the Houston game:
– The good, obviously, was what the defense did at the end of the game, both with the DRC interception and prevention of the final touchdown. It would have felt a lot better had the unit not surrendered TDs on three straight possessions, but coach Ken Whisenhunt talked afterward about how his team responded to the change in momentum and Rodgers-Cromartie was even more specific.
“Being up 21 points at the half, coming back and giving up three touchdowns you kind of think, ‘Oh snap.’ You want to hit the panic button,” DRC said. “Our captains, Darnell and Adrian (Wilson) came up and were like, ‘Don’t panic just yet. It’s still 0-0.’ That stuck with me.”
Did it lead to the interception? Who knows? DRC clearly felt like he got a little something back after all the slings and arrows he had endured following his less-than-memorable Colts’ game.
– That last goal-line stand wasn’t the only stand the defense made. Remember the key one early in the third quarter, in which the Texans had a second-and-1 on the Arizona 22 and the defense held up as follows: Stuff Steve Slaton for no gain, stuff Steve Slaton for no game, force a bad deep pass to Andre Johnson that DRC had perfect coverage upon. Zero points (think the Texans would have liked a field goal there by the time the game was over?).
– That third-down play on the final stand, the pass to tight end Joel Dreessen, was the key play. That was the play call on which the Texans needed to score. “That kind of scared me,” Dockett said. “He was wide open.” But linebacker Karlos Dansby forced Matt Schaub throw it justabit too high.
– Hope you didn’t blink because you might’ve missed it, but the Cards ran a version of the Wildcat for a play Sunday. Not with Anquan Boldin taking the snap but instead Beanie Wells. Not sure there’s much threat of a pass there. Beanie gained two yards.
– Boldin was a big part of the game plan and had seven catches, but he fell into the trap of turning the ball over inside the 10-yard line. Turnovers kill, but ones that close to paydirt usually are devastating. That’s what made Calais Campbell’s blocked field goal so huge, because it stopped the Texans from using the turnover for their own score.
– Not sure the extent of the ankle injury to tight end Stephen Spach, but the Cardinals get previously suspended tight end Ben Patrick back tomorrow. A roster move will have to be made to bring back Patrick.
– There will be more talk about running more often. Whisenhunt said he wanted balance if possible and the 21-0 lead would seem to have played into that possibility. But if Kurt Warner is going to have to option to have a run/pass check at the line of scrimmage, he’s going pass if he determines that’s what the defense dictates. Can it be argued the Cards need to force the run game sometimes in certain situations, especially with the lead? Maybe. But again, I think the thought process is, this is our offense, these are our stars – Q, Warner, Fitz – and they will sway the thinking.
OK. That’s plenty for now. Like Hightower said, a win is a win in the NFL. The Cards will take it and move on — even if it comes down to (almost) the final play.
UPDATE: OK, couldn’t go to bed without watching the final stuff one more time. While the players all said it was a team effort — and it was — nose tackle Gabe Watson got off the snap incredibly quick (with Dockett right after) and the Texans’ o-linemen weren’t as quick. That penetration, along with a perfect get-lower-than-the-opponent move by DT Bryan Robinson, created the push the Cards needed. Alan Branch and Calais Campbell pinched from the sides, and Chris Brown never had a chance.
Tags: 49ers, Adrian Wilson, Alan Branch, Andre Johnson, Anquan Boldin, Beanie Wells, Ben Patrick, Bryan Robinson, Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, DRC, Falcons, Gabe Watson, Kurt Warner, Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks, Stephen Spach, Steve Slaton, Tim Hightower, Wildcat
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The Cardinals officially sold out Sunday’s game by today’s deadline, so the game will indeed be televised locally on CBS (Ch. 5). The result means the Cardinals keep alive their streak of sellouts since the opening of University of Phoenix Stadium, which now totals 37 straight games including preseason and postseason dates.
There are still some premium tickets available, however, so anyone interested can call 800-745-3000 to buy them and see the crucial game which includes the subplot of two of the best receivers in the game: Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson.
As for practice today, I have yet to see the official injury designations for the weekend, but coach Ken Whisenhunt said he expects to have all 53 players available Sunday to craft his 45-man active list. That’s a first for 2009.
Tags: Andre Johnson, Blackouts, Larry Fitzgerald, sellout, Texans
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Much of the talk today after practice was concerning Larry Fitzgerald vs. Texans WR Andre Johnson. Eventually, it came around to dueling commericals — Fitz for IHOP, and Johnson for Dick’s Sporting Goods. Fitz might as well been on a late-night talk show as he launched the one-liners.
“He made a lot tougher catches than I did,” Fitzgerald said. “He was catching a hoagie. I was just catching coffee mugs. … His commerical was better because he got to talk. He got to show his personality and stuff. I just had to keep my mouth shut.”
(That may be true on the final product, although Fitz clearly shot extra stuff where he did talk. But we don’t want to get in the way of a good story of the poor, underused Fitz on the set).
“I had a line actually, but they said I didn’t do a good job with it,” Fitz added, with sympathy growing. “That’s all right though, I am happy you guys (meaning the media) allow me to work with you. I am happy for the opportunity.”
What about catching the fresh coffee? “It was hot, I burned my hand a couple of times,” Fitz quipped. “But you have to go out and deal with the pain.”
And for your efforts, what’d you get? A million dollars? Free pancakes for life? “No, I got like two gift certificates and thanks for my services and go on home.”
Yeah, I’m guessing not so much.
It has to invite people to chuck stuff at you when you go to IHOP though, right? “They don’t throw things at me,” Fitzgerald said, still smiling. “I go in from time to time but they are off-beat hours. People aren’t throwing too many things. I’m signing napkins and stuff. That’s all.”
Tags: Andre Johnson, IHOP, Larry Fitzgerald
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