Late in the season, the Cardinals’ offensive linemen installed one of those mini-basketball hoops above one of their lockers. Every once in a while, after practice, somebody (or somebodies) would take a few shots. There’s no question that over the years, plenty of players have come through that space thinking they were quite the basketball players.
Anquan Boldin could play. Kurt Warner could play (and still does, hosting invite-only pickup games at his house in Scottsdale). Josh McCown could really play.
With the NBA all-star game today, it’s a good time to discuss who might make a solid unit for the hardwood. I’ve had the chance to talk to a handful of players about their basketball backgrounds. (I have not talked to everyone, and I am sure I will have inevitably missed some serious baller here. I ask, preemptively, for forgiveness.)
You’ve got to start with Darren Fells. The guy played pro basketball, after all. Larry Fitzgerald still likes to trash-talk Fells, and at one point there was a challenge of a one-on-one game, but I’m guessing Fitz wouldn’t like how that would turn out. Still, I’ve seen Fitz enough times in charity games that he probably could be in the starting lineup.
Our point guard would be Tyrann Mathieu, who might not quite be the same player as he was prior to a pair of ACL injuries, although I’m guessing he’d say different. (That video doesn’t exactly show the Badger against the best defense.) Calais Campbell, who at 6-foot-8 did some damage inside in high school, can be our center. And you don’t want to forget David Johnson (15.7 points, 7.9 rebounds a game as a senior in high school, and second-team all-state), who noted on Twitter he’s got a 41.5-inch vertical.
Off the bench? Kareem Martin, who played football at North Carolina, had a chance to walk on to the Tar Heels basketball team and maybe be the next Julius Peppers. Martin decided to concentrate on football, but you’ve got to have some game to be considered for UNC hoops. Some Earl Watford (Earl had some good stories about being the muscle on the court for his high school team), and a little A.Q. Shipley (A.Q., while shooting on that mini-hoop, assured me that back in the day, he was quite nimble on the court). Close it out with Tony Jefferson, who plays pretend basketball in the locker room with the trash cans more than any player ever and loves his Suns. (Yes, Jefferson was cut as a sophomore in high school, but noted that he had 16 points and five steals in his final lower-level high school appearance, so there’s that.)
Tags: A.Q. Shipley, basketball, Calais Campbell, Darren Fells, David Johnson, Earl Watford, Kareem Martin, Larry Fitzgerald, Tony Jefferson, Tyrann Mathieu
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Kurt Warner is in the Hall of Fame, and he’s had a chance to play with a lot of receivers that also could get a gold jacket. Larry Fitzgerald will be there someday, and Warner knows that. But in an interview with PFT Live, Warner was asked who he’d bang the table for to try and help get into Canton. He said former Rams teammate Isaac Bruce, in his view, should already be in so he’d probably lobby that way, but he also said he expects Bruce and fellow Ram Torry Holt to eventually get in. So, Warner said, that would turn his attention to former Cardinals teammate Anquan Boldin.
“I might bang the table for Anquan Boldin, because I think of all those guys, he gets the least respect for how great he is,” Warner said. “It amazes me, we want to keep looking at measurables and how fast guys are, as opposed to (being) one of the greatest football players I ever played with, competed more than anybody I ever played (with).
“He wanted the ball in his hands, was a difference-maker. Everybody tries to get rid of him and he just goes and he’s the No. 1 receiver on that next team. So I believe he’s the one who gets the least amount of respect, so I would love to get on the table for him.”
Boldin’s career, like Fitz’s, is winding down. He’s currently set to be a free agent after spending 2016 with the Lions, and said — while at the Super Bowl in Houston — his plans for 2017 were undecided.
“You probably have to ask my wife,” Boldin said with a chuckle. “The decisions I make now don’t just affect me. If it was up to me, I’d say I’d probably be playing in 2017, but I have to sit down with my wife. We have two boys, my decision affects them, so it’ll be a family decision.”
(No, I would not think, if Boldin continues to play, the Cardinals would be an option.)
Boldin’s numbers deserve Hall consideration for sure, as does the fact he played for some good teams — the Cards’ Super Bowl team, the Ravens when they won a Super Bowl, playoff teams in San Francisco and Detroit. With 1,076 receptions for 13,779 yards and 82 touchdowns, his stats were close to Fitzgerald’s up until a couple of seasons ago when Fitz’s production popped. (Fitz is at 1,125-14,389-104 for his career).
As great as Boldin’s career has been there’s no question his best years — and longest tenure — was his time in Arizona. Seven seasons, five 1,000-yard years (of the seven in his career.) When he and Fitz played together at the height of their powers, they deserved to be in the argument for best duo.
Tags: Anquan Boldin, Hall of Fame, Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald
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Is Patrick Peterson among the top 101 players from this past season?
One list — from Pro Football Focus — does not have the Cardinals cornerback on it. PFF ranks players based on grades they gave out for that season’s work. There are five Cardinals from 2016 on the list. Running back David Johnson (the guy who PFF called the best receiver in the NFL) is No. 23. Defensive lineman Calais Campbell is No. 24. Edge rusher Chandler Jones is No. 62. Safety Tony Jefferson is No. 84, and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is No. 89.
So no Peterson.
It’s not a huge surprise. PFF even talked about Peterson’s absence from an earlier all-pro team. The other five were deserving. Johnson was high on everyone’s list this season, and PFF had multiple times praised the seasons of Campbell and Jefferson. Jones proved to be a valuable acquisition and Fitz was, well, Fitz. In Peterson’s case, it was in part because of a good season by other cornerbacks (and, as my cohort Kyle Odegard points out, PFF grading doesn’t seem to take into account a lack of targets because teams throw away from a certain DB, or for the quality of receiver being covered.)
From PFF: “Peterson has been good this year, but he has allowed as many touchdowns (three) as he has interceptions, and allowed 60.6 percent of the passes thrown his way to be caught, a career high. When targeted he allowed a passer rating of 80.7, which wasn’t bad, but ranks 30th in the league and not in the same ballpark as players like Aqib Talib, who led the NFL at 47.0.”
Peterson had a response. “So does that mean these ‘experts’ will be releasing a Top 100 ‘Not Targeted’ List? Nope.” Peterson wrote in a tweet.
The other thing I see from the five Cards here — three are unrestricted free agents. All those guys are talented, but the contract year is real too.
Tags: Calais Campbell, Chandler Jones, David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Pro Football Focus, Tony Jefferson
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The moment, Fitz said, boiled up when Mike Phillips was playing the national anthem in Atlanta before the NFC Championship game between the Falcons and Packers. The Cardinals wide receiver said he was “just into it.”
“I was sitting there and the fire was burning,” Fitzgerald said. “I wanted to be out there.”
That’s what told Fitz he needed to play again in 2017, something he announced last week.
“I called (Bruce Arians), I said, ‘Coach, I’ve got that itch,’ ” Fitzgerald said the other night, after he was awarded the Walter Payton Man of the Year. “He was like, ‘Don’t rush, don’t make a hasty decision. Take your time.’ We talked again, I had dinner with Coach (Friday) night. I love that man, I love playing for him, he brings a great energy to our team and a toughness that is contagious.”
That’s what Arians had predicted, that the players would eventually have that itch. (Of course, when Arians said that, it was after the NFC Championship game and after Fitz said he was “pretty sure” he knew his decision, so B.A. was working with inside information.) Fitzgerald acknowledged all the things expected to have impacted his wavering about playing in the first place — feeling “pretty bad” after the season both physically and psychologically.
Spending time in Houston last week wasn’t ideal either.
“It sucks coming here (to the Super Bowl) and enjoying the pageantry of the event but not actually participating in the event,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s not the same. We all play for that. Hopefully we get off to a fast start and get it going this year.”
The Cardinals are waiting to hear from quarterback Carson Palmer about his status for 2017, but at this point it feels like a foregone conclusion Palmer will indeed play.
“We all hope that Carson comes back, not to put any pressure on him,” Fitzgerald said. “But we are a very, very good team when Carson is playing quarterback for us.”
Tags: Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald
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So Larry Fitzgerald is coming back, a boon to the Cardinals — at least for 2017. After moving on from Michael Floyd (which was probable as 2016 moved on and Floyd heading into free agency, regardless of his off-field issues), the Cards needed a Fitz anchor at wide receiver. But for the long-term, does it change a lot? The Cardinals still need to consider a big receiver in the draft, I’d think, a guy who can help fill the Fitz void when that comes sooner rather than later (and the way this all has gone, it feels like Fitzgerald is going to want to hang it up after 2017.)
Again, the biggest question after Fitzgerald when it comes to wide receiver is the ability for Smokey Brown to return to form. If Brown is able to play next season like he did for most of 2015 (Brown did battle hamstring issues that year and it might have been the sickle cell issue), the Cardinals should be fine. J.J. Nelson was emerging the last part of the season. Again, there probably needs to be a long-term “big” receiver plan post-Fitz, but it’s not crucial. The return of Fitz does ease the pressure — and eliminates a potential hole — that could have forced something different at the 13th overall pick. Then again, if Clemson’s Mike Williams is still on the board …
(Besides, good passing games come down to the quarterback often. If Carson Palmer retires along with Fitz, the Cards’ QB situation will be priority 1, 2 and 3. And probably 4 and 5.)
No, you don’t forget running back David Johnson either. He’ll play a huge role in the passing game again, I am sure. But again, if Brown and Jaron Brown (torn ACL) can come back healthy, along with Fitz and Nelson, the Cardinals’ receiving corps should be fine for this season.
Tags: Carson Palmer, David Johnson, J.J. Nelson, Jaron Brown, John Brown, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd
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Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald pulled out of the Pro Bowl Monday due to injury, and is being replaced by Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin, according to Seahawks.com. Fitz was banged up by the end of the season — which he noted with the bumps and bruises he said he wanted to recover from before making a decision in terms of playing in 2017. It was the 10th time Fitzgerald was named to the Pro Bowl.
Fitzgerald was one of three Cardinals’ Pro Bowlers. The team is now down to one — cornerback Patrick Peterson. Running back David Johnson’s chance to play was derailed when he sprained his MCL in the season finale against the Rams.
Fitzgerald was just named a finalist for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award. No Pro Bowl means the next time he could face the media — and questions about his future — would be at the NFL Honors show on Super Bowl eve, if he happens to win the Payton award.
Tags: David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Pro Bowl
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Even Bruce Arians ended up with a significant injury this season.
The injuries hit the Cardinals much harder in 2016 — when they used a total of 70 players during the 16 games — than 2015 — when the total was 56. (The 70 players that appeared in at least one game was the most for the Cardinals, in fact, since they used 74 during the 2005 season.) That list, of course, doesn’t include Arians, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t hurt.
And we’re not talking his two separate hospital stints either. No, this was an injury — a torn rotator cuff, in fact, which Arians confirmed to azcentral’s Dan Bickley. Arians said his left rotator cuff was “torn completely through” when wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald hugged him in celebration of Chandler Catanzaro’s game-winning field goal in Seattle on Christmas Eve.
Arians had hinted at such. In his final press conference, Arians noted “my shoulder that Larry screwed up. I just got it injected and will see if I have surgery on it.” He jokingly said Fitz would pay if he couldn’t golf, but apparently, Arians is making do on the course. (We’ll see how — if — he can get it done next week in the Waste Management Phoenix Open pro-am.) And unlike Fitzgerald, who wanted to let his body heal before making a decision about playing in 2017 (no decision yet), Arians knows he’ll be around in 2017, regardless of his shoulder situation.
Tags: Bruce Arians, Larry Fitzgerald, Seahawks
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One year ago, Larry Fitzgerald did it again. The last hurrah of the 2015 season was today, January 16, as the Cardinals outlasted the Packers in overtime of the divisional round of the playoffs because Carson Palmer spun away from danger to find Fitz and then Fitz raced down the field in front of a University of Phoenix Stadium filled with screaming fans. Then came the shovel touchdown, the trip to the NFC Championship, and many, many smiles.
(The next week didn’t go so well.)
It’s good that last year’s Packers weren’t as smoking hot as this year’s version, after watching Aaron Rodgers on Sunday.
The Cardinals have had a couple of epic playoff matchups with Rodgers and the Packers. Can’t argue that. Last year’s game might not have been as fun to watch all the way through as the previous postseason tilt, but the end certainly was thrilling, to the Floyd tip-drill to the Hail Mary to all that overtime stuff. Now the league has posted the full game on youtube.com, so you can watch the whole thing again if you’d like.
Tags: Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, Packers, playoffs
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Sure, with the playoffs starting this weekend you can stew about a team that was top 10 in offense and defense, seventh in the league in point-differential, scored more than 400 points and lead the league in sacks and yet under .500 and not in the postseason. But with it being Wild Card weekend and all, and the Packers once again playing, there is always the opportunity to go down memory lane. Maybe you’d like to re-read about last year’s playoff win over the Packers, or watch the highlights. But if you are looking for more — and perhaps, with Kurt Warner again on the verge of the Hall of Fame — how about a full replay of the Cardinals’ 51-45 wild Wild card win over the Packers in the 2009 playoffs?
You remember that one, of course. Warner had more touchdown passes (5) than incompletions (4). Larry Fitzgerald scored a pair of touchdowns (and kept the ball after each, FYI.) And it went to overtime with a dramatic ending, just like Cards-Pack 2015.
No, it’s not a real game this weekend. But it’s something.
Tags: Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Packers, playoffs
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It’s only fitting David Johnson was named AP all-pro this season, and while I understand why Ezekiel Elliott earned the running back nod on the team, I personally felt like Johnson earned it. It’s good they changed the rules to allow for a “flex” player (instead of a fullback) because it would have been wrong for Johnson not to be a first-team this year. But I can’t really argue with the other decisions. I’ve heard from a couple of people about Patrick Peterson, but the players that earned the first- and second-team slots — Aqib Talib, Marcus Peters, Janoris Jenkins, Casey Hayward, Malcom Butler — all had really good years. It was good to see Calais Campbell with a second-team nod. He was good all season but really came on in the second half of the year. It’s too bad the whole team couldn’t have that consistency in their playoff push.
It was interesting to me as I looked back over the years to see what Cardinals made first-team AP all-pro that Larry Fitzgerald earned that honor only once — fittingly, in 2008, when he not only was great in the regular season but had the best playoff run any receiver has ever (and while I know there are arguments to be made for a couple of other guys, having witnessed what Fitz did in those four games, you’ll never convince me otherwise that anyone ever did it better.)
— A quick thought on the ongoing Fitz-Carson Palmer retirement speculation. Nothing has changed for me. I have long believed and still believe Palmer will play in 2017. I think if, for whatever reason, Palmer did leave, that would seal Fitzgerald’s decision. But like I said, I believe Palmer is going to play. I still think Fitz hasn’t made up his mind. Won’t surprise me whatever decision he makes (so I guess I’m saying I think he’s 50-50.) I know he took the ball for his last catch/touchdown, but he has kept significant footballs before — and don’t forget, this one did net him an NFL receptions-title — and besides, it can’t hurt to take it just in case. If he comes back, fine. I don’t think the football gives any hints, other than he is considering retirement, which we knew already.
— Don’t forget to take a listen to our Cardinals Underground wrapup season podcast.
— In case you missed it (and maybe you might’ve, since this is the first year I didn’t put it in the blog), here was my annual roster breakdown, along with who is a free agent-to-be.
Tags: All-Pro, Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer, David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson
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