As the Arizona Cardinals get set to begin training camp later this month, they will do so knowing that their best player, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, is going to turn 29-years-old before the start of the 2012 NFL regular season. That may not seem that old, but the elite wideout says that the window is quickly closing out in the desert.
Fitzgerald told the Arizona Republic as much when discussing expectations for the upcoming season, and why the Cards need to discover a sense of urgency, even telling some of his younger teammates what they need to make happen going forward.
“I don’t have another eight, nine years to play,” said the ninth year receiver out of Pittsburgh. “I would love to, but realistically, that’s not going to happen. So the window of opportunity is short, and that’s another reason why I talked to Michael [Floyd], why I talk to Andre [Roberts]. I tell them, ‘Before you know it, you’re going to look down and find gray hair in your beard. You’re going to be sore in parts that were never sore before. It changes that fast, and I never realized that before. So I need your best right now.’ Adrian [Wilson] is telling the defense the same thing, getting everyone to buy in because we need to make it happen now.”
Of course, I’m not sure that was before or after Fitzgerald came out on Twitter and blasted Floyd for what he perceived as a “lack of effort” on the part of the rookie from Notre Dame. To Floyd’s credit, Fitzgerald did admit the next day that he must have gotten Fitzgerald’s point and came out and had a great workout. The day before, Fitzgerald said he charged Floyd with a DWI – don’t want it – after he missed a third consecutive workout. But the next day, Fitzgerald said that Floyd “killed it” in practice.
But while Fitzgerald attempts to motivate and push his fellow wide receivers to go out and practice and play as hard as he does, it is the unsettled play at quarterback that may hamper the Cardinals this season more than anything.
Replacing Anquan Boldin has been hard. But finding someone who can replace Kurt Warner has been far more difficult. In fact, finding anyone who can even put up numbers half as good as Warner has been almost impossible so far.
Arizona tried hard to recruit Peyton Manning to step in and lead the offense, and he would have been a natural fit. Unfortunately for them, Manning turned down the Cardinals and decided to sign with the Denver Broncos. That leaves Arizona with the disappointing Kevin Kolb, who they traded a lot for just one year ago, as well as John Skelton, Richard Bartel and rookie Ryan Lindley. None of them exactly scream confidence into thir team or fear into their opponents, but if any of them can establish a solid rapport with Fitzgerald, they will at least have a shot of putting up decent numbers.
Whether that will be good enough to get Arizona back to the playoffs remains to be seen. But Fitzgerald knows that if the Cardinals are going to make a push, the time is now.
“When it’s all said and done, I don’t want people to say, ‘Yeah, he was a talented guy who put up numbers, but he was never able to win the ultimate prize,’ ” Fitzgerald said. “That’s where my mind-set is at.”
The talent and drive is certainly there already. But can Fitzgerald get enough of his teammates to step up and practice and play and feel the same way?
That will all be determined once September rolls around.