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Cards go camping in Minnesota

Posted by Darren Urban on July 10, 2013 – 1:26 pm

Every year, Larry Fitzgerald holds about a month’s worth of work at home in Minnesota. There is a little bit of throwing and mostly hardcore conditioning and weightlifting, all designed to help in the “downtime” an NFL player has right before training camp. I was fortunate enough to take a trip up to visit last year (here is the story and the resulting video of that trip.) The time there is great for these guys. Hard work through noon or 1, and then everyone is usually invited daily back to Fitz’s house to hang out or go jet-skiing on the lake. I’d take that life this time of year. This year, both Fitz and new quarterback Carson Palmer talked a few times how they were going to hook up during the workouts, and Palmer, a man of his word, is indeed up in Minnesota right now.

Apparently, most of the throwers and catchers are, for that matter. Fitz will take anyone across the league who wants to come — last year, Jaguars receiver Cecil Shorts and Seahawks running back Leon Washington were among the guys there when I was there — but it’s never bad when Cardinals come. This year, there are a ton of Cardinals there. Fitz put out the picture below earlier today on social media (thanks for letting me “borrow” it, Fitz). From left to right, starting in the back, it is Michael Rios, Jaron Brown, Dan Buckner (I hope, always tougher with the undrafted rookies), Tyler Shaw, QB Ryan Lindley, LaRon Byrd, Kerry Taylor, QB Carson Palmer, Michael Floyd and QB Drew Stanton. In the front, it’s Andre Roberts, Charles Hawkins, Fitz and Robert Gill. (Here is a story from a local TV station with a little video.)

It’s a huge turnout, and seems to bode well. Then again, if you are a QB and Palmer is going to be there, or you are a receiver and Fitz, Floyd and Roberts are going to be there, it’s tough to say no. Either way, I think of Bruce Arians saying when the Cards come back for camp there can’t be regression — that at worst the Cards have to come in where they left off after offseason work, and maybe even a little ahead.

It’s hard not to think that the QBs and receivers will accomplish that goal after working in Fitz’s backyard.

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Not wanting to repeat, Fitz is on the move

Posted by Darren Urban on June 13, 2013 – 4:10 pm

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.”

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So a Card, a Ram and a Seahawk walk into a weight room

Posted by Darren Urban on July 11, 2012 – 11:15 am

My two days at Larry Fitzgerald’s Minnesota camp are over (story coming soon), and I know many are wondering who exactly is showing up to the workouts. Obviously, it’s an ever evolving thing. Not everyone shows every day, or every week. I was told Vikings Christian Ponder and Kyle Rudolph were there the week before. And, oh yeah, Cards rookie Michael Floyd was there Tuesday but not Monday.

As I mentioned before, Cardinals wide receivers Andre Roberts and Stephen Williams were there, as was quarterback Rich Bartel.

But I have to admit, it was hard not to notice the mixing of the NFC West rivals. Seahawks running back Leon Washington and wide receiver Ricardo Lockette were also there, and quarterback Tarvaris Jackson came too. Rams safety Craig Dahl was also in the middle of the action. Now, there are reasons. Lockette and Jackson is a former Viking and has roots in Minnesota, as does Dahl, who was raised there. Washington doesn’t, but heard about it through his Seattle teammates and brought his wife, with the two of them hanging out at Fitz’s house afterward and taking part in water sports Fitz enjoys in the lake behind his house.

The battles for the division seemed far away.

“This group of guys is really competitive on and off the field,” Dahl said. “We come together in the summer time to reunite and push each other. On Sundays, it might be a different story.”

At one point, Fitzgerald good-naturedly tried to stop an interview with Washington (pictured below, with Fitz). Something about putting an infiltrator on the Cardinals’ website. There is plenty of trash talking about what will happen in the division later on, but that only makes sense.

“We all respect each other, we all want each other to do well,” Washington said. “When it’s the offseason, we can work together. When Sunday comes around and you match up against each other … you want your team to come out with the victory. I’ll be pulling for the Seahawks all the time.”

(Side note: There were no 49ers and I don’t believe any were expected.)

Among the others in attendance during my time there were Jacksonville receivers Laurent Robinson and Cecil Shorts, Tampa receiver Tiquan Underwood (famous for being cut by the Patriots on the eve of last year’s Super Bowl) and Vikings linebacker Everson Griffen.

“We’re a fraternity,” Fitzgerald said. “There’s only 1,600 of us.”


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