As promised, the ESPN Magazine called “The Body Issue” has been released and Larry Fitzgerald is one of the featured athletes. A video and interview with Fitz can be found here, and while I’m not going to break down any photos of Fitz au naturel (there is a pic from the magazine below), there were a couple of answers in the interview that caught my eye. (Other than the line about how random older ladies occasionally grab his butt in the mall.)
One, that Fitz wears gloves — post practice. Usually, in practice, he just tapes up his thumbs. “Every day after practice I put gloves on — they are these really tight, stiff mitts, and they make you work extremely hard to close and open your hands,” Fitz says. “It strengthens my hands, especially the thumbs — your thumbs are really what control your grip.”
The other isn’t as much of a surprise as a confirmation of where Fitz’s mindset is even a decade into his NFL career. “I’m obsessed with my craft,” he said. “I just want to squeeze every single drop out of the lemon that I possibly can. I don’t want to have any regrets, and to this point I can sleep at night.”
Tags: ESPN, Larry Fitzgerald
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Every year, ESPN the magazine puts out “The Body Issue,” their answer to Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue — the difference being ESPN uses athletes and does not use swimsuits. Just … well, their bodies. And this year, one of the bodies happens to belong to Larry Fitzgerald.
There are no photos out there yet. The issue is due to hit newsstands July 11 (and mailboxes right before that.) But in a video ESPN did to tease the issue, you indeed see a brief clip of Fitz during his shoot. I managed to capture a screen shot off the web video, which you can see here (Sorry it’s a link and not posted at the bottom, but this is a family website after all). I am a little surprised Fitz decided to do something like this, but he said in a text message this morning “It’s tastefully done.”
Certainly, Fitz is a guy who keeps in excellent shape. He’s in Minnesota right now, about to train as he always does in the dead time before camp. He may be heading directly toward his 31st birthday, but his conditioning and frame are as good as they always were.
There was one funny thing that struck me about the video. At the tail end, as the music fades, you hear one comment: “I can’t believe I’m doing this.” I’ve heard that voice a million times over the years. It was Fitz.
POSTSCRIPT: After I posted this, @CPDizzle on Twitter shot me this link from an ESPN Magazine ad circa 1998. I had to laugh.
Tags: ESPN, Larry Fitzgerald
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The numbers are stark, presented by ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski as he unveiled his rankings of the starting quarterbacks in the NFL. He placed Carson Palmer 23rd in the 32-team league — more on that in a bit — but also talked about some numbers Palmer worked through last season while playing for the Raiders. During Oakland’s 4-12 season, Palmer threw 565 passes in 15 games, with 73 percent of those passes coming when the Raiders were trailing in the game. An astonishing 70 percent came when the Raiders were down by at least seven points.
You can read that a couple of ways. You can read it that Palmer threw for more than 4,000 yards (4,018, to be exact) only because he was throwing all the time. Then again, to come up with 22 TD passes and only 14 interceptions on that many passes — when the majority of the time the other team knew he was going to throw — probably should count for something. Certainly the numbers are much better than what was posted in Arizona behind center last season.
Being ranked 23rd doesn’t exactly engender Pro Bowl hopes here. But here is a sampling of what Jaworski said during his ESPN appearance talking about the new Cards’ QB and it was pretty positive:
“I thought the Cardinals’ trade for Palmer was an excellent move,” Jaworski said. “He will stabilize the Arizona offense and work effectively with new head coach Bruce Arians.
“There’s a disconnect between perception and reality with Palmer. Many think he throws too many interceptions. He only threw 14 last season in 591 drop-backs. A few are dramatic and memorable; those stick out in people’s minds, shaping an image that’s hard to get rid of. … Palmer still has very good arm strength. He has the mentality of a strong-armed passer, willing and confident in pushing the ball down the field. … Palmer can still make those kinds of throws. That ability will fit well in Arians’ aggressive, downfield passing game.
“Palmer will allow the Cardinals’ offense to attack the entire field. He gives Arizona a multi-dimensional passing game. He reads coverage well. He can beat the blitz. He’s efficient in the red zone. He can execute a high volume of offense. I have always liked Palmer. The major concern in Arizona is the offensive line. Palmer is a pocket passer with excellent arm talent, but he needs time and functional space. That’s the unknown as we head into the 2013 season.”
Palmer continues to work with the wideouts as camp approaches. The Cardinals’ defense, meanwhile, should be good enough to make sure Palmer isn’t working from behind quite as often this season.
Tags: Carson Palmer, ESPN, Ron Jaworski
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Yesterday, coach Ken Whisenhunt said he wasn’t going to “macro-analyze” the quarterback situation on a daily basis and that the Cards would let everyone know who the starting QB will be when a decision is finally made. But this morning, ESPN’s Adam Schefter is saying “people inside the organization” consider John Skelton the favorite to win the job. I’m guessing Whisenhunt will be asked about it at lunch.
Even if true, a favorite does not signify a winner of the competition, and Kevin Kolb is going to get the start (and my guess, a lot of playing time) Friday against the Raiders. Before this latest Skelton report broke, Kolb talked about where he is and how he deals with the constant scrutiny this competition has brought.
“For me, it’s making me a better player,” Kolb said. “I don’t get caught up in a day-to-day, ‘How did John do, how did I do?’ ”
One of Kolb’s issues, of course, is staying in the pocket and not scrambling too early. He knows that. “It’s always a constant battle as far as trusting it and standing in long enough to make that throw,” Kolb said. “We just keep analyzing that fine line and get as close to it as possible.”
Kolb said he had one play against the Chiefs where “I definitely got out early.” There was another play where Kolb had to scramble, but Whisenhunt said that was when rookie receiver LaRon Byrd ran the wrong route and put Kolb in a bad place on the play.
“That’s one of the areas we are working on, stepping up in the pocket, staying with your reads,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s an area he’s made improvement on, I’ve seen it. It’s just got to translate to the games. Some of it is not his fault. We’re working on the offensive line. But you know what, you think pressure on the quarterback is automatically offensive line but there are tight ends and backs that didn’t do the job in the game. They are all accountable.”
The battle is coming to an end, of course. Whisenhunt hasn’t said as much, but there seems like there would be a lot riding on Kolb’s Oakland performance. But I remember covering former Coyotes coach Jim Schoenfeld in 1998-99, a year that started great and fizzled, responding to a report he would be fired if the team lost a particular game. Schoenfeld felt like, if he had done poor enough to be fired, there’s no way the result of one game could make a difference.
Kolb seems to understand the big picture too. “We’ve had a lot of time to audition,” he said.
“The thing is, the end is the beginning, right?” Kolb added. “Whoever is named the starter, you strap up and get ready for 16 games.”
Tags: Coyotes, ESPN, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb
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A couple of tidbits as I return from some time off:
The NFL’s draftees are in Canton this week for the annual rookie symposium, a plan last in place back in 2008. A brainchild of Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, who thought it was important young players understand the history of the league, the draftees get to see the Hall of Fame while attending seminars how to deal with life as a pro athlete. Below is a picture of some Cards’ rookies looking at a Hall display (that’s Nate Potter on the left, Michael Floyd on the right). There’s also a shot of Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, who grew up in a military family, checking out the Pat Tillman display. (A photo gallery is here.)
— In other news, longtime ESPN anchor Chris Berman, who has been the face of that network’s TV coverage, will finally get a chance to do a couple games of play-by-play in the NFL this season. The network trumpeted his placement on the second “Monday Night Football” game of opening weekend — Chargers at Raiders — with the annual doubleheader that night, working with Trent Dilfer. But Berman’s actual debut in the booth for play-by-play will be a couple weeks earlier, calling the Cardinals’ preseason game in Tennessee that will be televised nationally on ESPN.
“That’s great news,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said on Berman’s move to the booth. “I don’t know if there’s anyone who brings more enthusiasm and passion to his job than Chris Berman. For a lot of fans and people involved with the game, Chris is synonymous with the big time NFL events so this it’s exciting that he’s doing our preseason game against the Titans.”
Tags: ESPN, Hall of Fame, Ken Whisenhunt, Michael Floyd, Michael Irvin, Nate Potter, Pat Tillman
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The latest in a series of offseason posts looking back:
It was the hit that changed a little history, at least for the 49ers, and the Cardinals were the ones that delivered it. There is some irony there, given that the two are rivals now, because back in 1999, they most certainly weren’t.
Still, the concussion-inducing shot absorbed by then-49ers quarterback Steve Young by cornerback Aeneas Williams ended Young’s career, and hasn’t been forgotten.
Back in 1999, the Cards were coming off their magical 1998 playoff appearance. The 49ers were still one of the best teams in the league. San Francisco was due to visit Sun Devil Stadium in a game that was rare on many levels. It was “Monday Night Football,” only the third time the Cards had been on MNF since coming to Arizona (and long before 49er-Cardinal games became practically annual Monday night viewing). Playing the 49ers didn’t happen often. The Cards were still in the NFC East. The 1999 game was only the third time SF would play in Arizona – although the first one remained (and still remains) a classic for Cards fans.
Then came the game. Young had piloted the Niners to a 17-0 when, late in the first half, Young was sandwiched by cornerbacks Williams and J.J. McCleskey coming on blitzes from each side. Williams drilled Young in the chest, and Young’s head banged into a teammate’s knee on his way to the turf. He was down and out, replaced by an unknown named Jeff Garcia, who threw for just 30 yards while the Niners held on to a 24-10 win.
Young was worried about his future, but wanted to keep playing football. Even the following June, Williams talked about how he wanted Young to keep playing. But a few days later, Young finally was forced to admit his career was over, while Williams recounted that night. “I remember it being really quiet, and seeing him laid out on the field,” Williams said. Young never did play again after Williams hit him.
In 2008, the Niners came to play the Cards in Arizona for “Monday Night Football.” Williams was there as alumni captain, and Young was too as part of the ESPN television crew. It made sense to bring up the story, and Young was asked if he would talk about that night at Sun Devil Stadium. He made clear it wasn’t a subject he wanted to re-visit. I’d imagine if the same scenario came up again, in the context of today’s Cardinals-49ers relationship, it’d be an even bigger sore spot.
Tags: 49ers, Aeneas Williams, ESPN, J.J. McCleskey, Jeff Garcia, Revisionist history, Steve Young
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Rankings are all subjective. That’s why there are playoffs at the end of the NFL season, because certainly the Cardinals wouldn’t have been in the Super Bowl that season had the postseason teams been advanced based on a ranking system. And there are times when a ranking reflects well on Cardinals-land.
Then there are other times.
ESPN took a break from LeBronapalooza to put together some preseason NFL rankings. The Cardinals, not surprisingly, were No. 21 out of 32 teams, a general area many seem to be slotting the 2010 edition. I get it. Matt Leinart has much to prove and the team has had enough turnover that it’s tough to know exactly how far this squad is from the 10-win division champion of 2009. But the No. 20 team is Carolina, who in my estimation has lost even more than the Cards and has either Matt Moore or Jimmy Clausen at quarterback. Not sure how they’d rank higher (but that will be settled for real Dec. 19 in Carolina).
But nothing caught my eye as much as cbssports.com’s position rankings for safety. A separate top five for the position was created by both Andy Benoit and Josh Katzowitz. Neither one included Adrian Wilson — and, actually even a little more surprising, neither one even mentioned Wilson in their lengthy back-and-forth. Wilson isn’t better than Brian Dawkins these days? And even if you feel that strongly about Bernard Pollard or Nick Collins, Wilson has to be in the discussion, right? Especially when, elsewhere on the site, Wilson is ranked as the 44th-best player in the entire NFL (Fitz is 11th, Dockett 47th, BTW).
Something tells me it’s just another chip A-Dub can hoist upon his shoulder this season. Yes, I feel fairly confident about that.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Bernard Pollard, Brian Dawkins, Darnell Dockett, ESPN, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Leinart, Nick Collins, Panthers
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Every year ESPN puts together an “Ultimate Standings” list, ranking all the teams in the four main pro sports in categories like “Bang for your buck,” affordability, ownership, fan relations, stadium experience, coaching and players. And the Cardinals did quite well, thank you. The Cards are 19th overall among 122 franchises, and fourth overall in the NFL — behind just the Saints, Colts and Packers (the Saints, coming off their Super Bowl win, are also No. 1 overall). The Cards’ highest marks are in coaching (another good reason the Cards extended Ken Whisenhunt), which comes out seventh among the 122 teams, and “bang for the buck,” which the team is ninth overall. The Cards also are rated as having the sixth-best stadium experience in the NFL (and 18th overall).
Interestingly, the Phoenix Suns — who just had a run to the conference finals — are the lowest rated of the local franchises at No. 47 overall. The Coyotes are one notch ahead of the Cards at No. 18, and the struggling Diamondbacks are still No. 26.
The rest of the NFC West, by the way? The Niners are 77th, the Seahawks 83rd and the Rams 114th — one spot ahead of the Raiders.
Tags: 49ers, Cardinals, Colts, ESPN, Ken Whisenhunt, Packers, Rams, Saints, Seahawks
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Back in April, I mentioned Larry Fitzgerald was headed to Connecticut at one point to shoot an ESPN commercial for their ongoing This Is SportsCenter campaign. Well, it’s time has finally arrived and ESPN was kind enough to send along the clip. The “Sticky Fingers” spot has Fitz and anchor Jay Harris talking about Harris’ bad haircut while Fitz catches everything around the office.
I’ll let the viewing public decide if it matches up with “Nice hands, Larry!”
Tags: ESPN, Larry Fitzgerald
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