The NFL Network’s summer tour of the top 100 players — as chosen by a vote of players — wraps up tonight. Somewhere in the final 10, Larry Fitzgerald will have his named called.
(The show airs at 5 p.m. Arizona time. And I am sure we will have Fitz’s segment available on the site soon after. … And here it is.)
Last year, Fitz was No. 14. Where will he be in a couple of hours? Don’t know. Guys like Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Calvin Johnson and Patrick Willis remain. I will be interested where Fitz is in relation to Johnson. Something tells me that could get the fans riled up. I already know — since I watched it unfold on Twitter — that people aren’t thrilled Calais Campbell/Adrian Wilson/Darnell Dockett didn’t make the list. Only Patrick Peterson will join Fitz.
Is Campbell or one of the others one of the current 100 best players in the league? An argument can be made, sure. I don’t know how many players participated in the voting, but someone came up with this list. (I mean, is Eli Manning really only the 31st best player? Worse than James Harrison? Or Wes Welker? Um, no.) This is about talking about the NFL in the deadest time of the NFL calendar, however. Don’t ever forget that. Lists are popular to make because they generate such conversation. And we are certainly talking about it, right?
UPDATE: Fitz was seventh. Calvin Johnson was third, behind Rodgers and Brees. Said Fitz on Twitter, “Honored 2 b voted a top 10 player by my peers. Congrats 2 all others. I will continue striving 4 perfection. 6 spots 2 go.
UPDATE, THE SEQUEL: Fitz had an even longer — and poignant — response on Facebook:
“Having been voted a Top 10 NFL player for the 2012 season is a cherished honor because the selection was made by my peers, and a player can have no greater accolade nor satisfaction than knowing that those he lines up against for 60 minutes every week value to the highest degree his talent, competitiveness, effort, productivity and achievement.
“I’ve completed 8 NFL seasons, & while I am somewhat satisfied with personal achievements, I have come close only once to achieving the ultimate team goal.
“Being a productive WR is no longer enough. I’ve grown into a position of leadership as a Cardinals team captain and have tried to expand my role as a mentor and example for our core of young players.
“My sincere hope is that we can get back to the playoffs on a regular basis and become Super Bowl Champions.
“Our team was 2minutes away from that goal on February 4, 2009, and similarly, my 7th rank of NFL top players leaves room for improvement.
“I will strive as always to expand my role and contributions to team success, be as productive as possible,and win a Championship…..”
Tags: Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Wilson, Calais Campbell, Calvin Johnson, Darnell Dockett, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, James Harrison, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Willis, Tom Brady, Wes Welker
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It doesn’t take much to change the outcome of a game. Ray Horton has seen that a couple of times, in a couple of instances when it couldn’t have been on a bigger stage.
In doing an interview with the Cards’ new defensive coordinator the other day, the subject of the little things – and Super Bowls – came up. Don’t forget, Horton was on the defensive staff of that Steelers’ team that beat the Cards a couple of years ago. We started talking about the interception return of linebacker James Harrison right before halftime (careful, don’t throw things at the computer screen).
Afterward, Horton said, he figured the coaching staff watched that play 50 times over and over. He can tell you exactly where everyone on both teams was and ended up. Despite claims by Kurt Warner to the contrary, Horton said the Cards lined up for that play just like they had all season. But Harrison, a linebacker, decided not to blitz as called and for some reason stayed home.
(This is the stomach-punch part of the post, so if you’re faint of heart, look away now).
“You can look at each guy and think, ‘If one guy does one thing different, he doesn’t score,’ ” Horton said of Harrison’s 100-yard touchdown. “It was a dramatic play and it turned the game around. It won or lost that Super Bowl.
“Really, if James Harrison would have done what he was supposed to do … the play (the Cards called) was a perfect play and they would have scored, walked in and probably won the game. But because one guy did something different … the ramifications …”
Horton knows of ramifications. Because if you ask him what play during his 10-year NFL career sticks out, it’s a play just like that – and for Horton, it had the same painful type of result.
He was playing for the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII, the one where Montana hit John Taylor for a game-winning 10-yard touchdown with 30-some seconds to go – just barely past the outstretched fingers of a diving Horton.
The play the Bengals had called was to double-team both Taylor and Jerry Rice (who had 11 catches for 215 yards that day), the right call for the formation. But then Rice went in motion – a change-up – and Horton thought, “We’re screwed.” He thought about calling time out but didn’t, which still sticks with him.
While we talked, Horton jumped up to scribble the play on a white board to explain what happened. Safety David Fulcher was supposed to come across for Taylor. Horton was supposed to stay with Rice, but he quickly realized Rice was the diversion. He tried to jump back and make the play. He just missed the ball, and was lying in the end zone as Taylor finished off the play.
“We are sitting on the bus on the way back and David said, ‘Ray, I could’ve picked that ball, I had nothing to do,’ ” Horton remembered. “I said, ‘I know. I know.’
“It still haunts me.”
Tags: 49ers, Bengals, David Fulcher, James Harrison, Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, John Taylor, Kurt Warner, Ray Horton, Steelers, Super Bowl
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The building has gotten quiet here at 8701 South Hardy. The coaches are gone until tomorrow morning, getting some of their brief free time during the week tonight. The Texans will be waiting Sunday, in a game that obviously means a lot. The gap in this league between 2-2 and 1-3 is so much larger than one tick in the win-loss column. With that in mind, some things to chew on as we head into the weekend:
– So much has been said about coach Ken Whisenhunt’s playcalling (and he talked about it himself), but it got me to thinking about something I saw on NBC’s pregame stuff last Sunday before the Chargers-Steelers game about the infamous James Harrison interception. The story had already spread that Harrison wasn’t supposed to be there and that he has supposed to blitz, which would have left Anquan Boldin open. Turns out the Chargers had run the same play against the Steelers earlier in the playoffs and scored a touchdown on a pass to a slot receiver, as Boldin was. It worked because the Steelers had called a blitz and Harrison came, opening a sliver that Philip Rivers threw through.
This is the point: The Cardinals had sniffed out what should have been the perfect playcall against the Steelers’ call, because Harrison was indeed supposed to come again. But Harrison apparently (according to NBC analyst Tony Dungy) felt wrong with blitzing and, unbeknownst to his teammates decided to not do his job on the play. It worked. It could have backfired. And for all the talk of Kurt Warner making a bad throw or Boldin not getting wide enough or even that it was a poor call, it certainly seems that Harrison just made a Pro Bowl hunch and it paid off. Sometimes, the other guy just beats you.
– What could help the Cards’ defense Sunday? How about safety Matt Ware? Sure, Ware isn’t a Pro Bowler. But his absence from a shoulder injury affects this team more than most understand, because when he can’t play Pro Bowler Adrian Wilson’s opportunities to move around are much more limited. Whisenhunt acknowledged “there’s no question” Wilson will be freed up with Ware back. The Cards, who have so many options in their multiple-safety package, just weren’t going to use it as much when the third safety is rookie Rashad Johnson.
“We feel more comfortable with what Matt is going to do in the back half as opposed to what Rashad is going to do just because of his status as a young football player,” Whisenhunt said. “There is no question we have confidence in Rashad as we go forward, but Matt has done it.”
– The Cards may use Beanie Wells more Sunday (and it’s hard to think he won’t get more work than his two-carry game against the Colts) and Whisenhunt said — with a knowing smile, since he knows he says it often – that the Cards want more balance. But, he added with emphasis, “I’ll tell you this, if we come out and we are hitting on all cylinders in the pass game, we’re going to throw it.”
– Speaking of Beanie, if you talk to him, he doesn’t think he has any shortcomings in his game. There’s a fine line between confidence and, as my radio partner Bill Lewis likes to say, “not knowing what you don’t know.” Beanie is clearly frustrated that he isn’t getting much more time on the field (and yes, I know there are plenty of fans who agree with him).
– If Warner throws for 300 yards, it’ll be the 50th time in his career he’s done that. For some reason, I think he definitely gets there this game – yet the Cards still run for enough yardage that Whisenhunt will be happy.
– So much talk about Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson this week. All I can say is, don’t sleep on Anquan. Especially with all the youth in the Texans’ secondary.
It’s getting late (at least, work-wise) and I too want to get what free time I can at home. Think pink Sunday at the game with Breast Cancer Awareness (there will be collection buckets at stadium entrances for anyone looking to make a donation). The Cardinals want to look the part too, so they are breaking out (I think, off the top of my head, for the first time at UoP) the white-on-white uniforms this time around. Red tends to clash with pink and all that. Maybe it changes up the Cards’ home luck, too.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Beanie Wells, Bill Lewis, James Harrison, Ken Whisenhunt, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Matt Ware, Super Bowl
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