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Cardinals fans will get to chant “LAR-RY” at University of Phoenix Stadium for at least one more season.
Receiver Larry Fitzgerald announced told Cardinals coach Steve Wilks that he will play in 2018, according to a team spokesman.
Fitzgerald decided 14 NFL seasons weren’t enough, and it’s hard to blame him.Fitzgerald, who holds every major franchise receiving record (and most of the minor ones) is still among the best receivers in the NFL. He’s caught at least 100 passes for more than 1,000 yards in each of the last three seasons.
Plus he’s due to make $11 million in 2018, the final year of his contract.
“You’re talking about a future first ballot hall of famer,” Wilks said on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “Couldn’t be more excited about Larry coming back next year. He’s totally committed. Those are his words.”
Fitzgerald didn’t provide the rationale behind his thinking, but clearly he wasn’t scared off by the prospect of playing for a new head coach, Wilks, in a different offense.
“What he represents on and off the football field is phenomenal,” Wilks said.
The Cardinals don’t have a quarterback on the roster, and there was speculation Fitzgerald wouldn’t make a decision until he knew who would be throwing him the ball this season.
Wilks said he “felt honored to know that he’s really committed to come back, understanding that we, right now, don’t have a quarterback on the roster.”
Larry Fitzgerald’s legacy
Fitzgerald is perhaps the best player in franchise history. No one was better. The third-overall pick in 2003, he’s spent his entire career with the Cardinals and made the Pro Bowl 11 times.
He came to the Cardinals at age 20, part kid, part man. Now 34, he’s a father of two and a cornerstone of the community.
“We could all see Larry’s amazing talent from the first day we watched him on the field,” former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner once said. “He had a rear skillset that doesn’t come along very often.”
Over his 14 seasons, Fitzgerald grew up, and so did the Cardinals. They moved into a new stadium, went to the Super Bowl for the first time and won more frequently than they had since the late 1940s.
As a rookie in Arizona, Fitzgerald was so lonely that he often stayed late at the team facility and the team’s equipment managers fold towels or listen to owner Bill Bidwill tell stories about the old days of the NFL.
“Guys in the equipment room give me a hard time now when I leave the locker room in the afternoon,” Fitzgerald said after his 12th year in the NFL. “’Fitz, how come you never help fold towels anymore?’
“I’m like, ‘man, I’ve got a family now. I have to pick up my boys from school. We have basketball practice this afternoon.’”
azcentral sports’ Cardinals insider Kent Somers discusses new Cardinals offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and the unknown involved with what Arizona’s offense will look like next season after Monday’s press conference in Tempe.
The Cardinals’ future
The Cardinals went 8-8 last season, their second consecutive non-winning season. A year ago, Fitzgerald decided to return, partly because he didn’t want to end his career on a 7-8-1 record.
Making one last attempt at a Super Bowl likely figured into Fitzgerald’s thinking.
Money alone doesn’t motivate Fitzgerald, although an $11 million salary is a nice incentive to keep playing.
But Fitzgerald’s made $148 million playing football, according to overthecap.com, much of which he has saved and invested wisely. Fitzgerald’s been preparing for life after football from the day he was drafted.
Fitzgerald wasn’t immediately available to explain the reasons his reasons for wanting to play in 2018.
Wilks is Fitzgerald’s fourth head coach, and coordinator Mike McCoy, no doubt, will install an offense that’s different than that of former coach Bruce Arians.
Fitzgerald is likely to flourish in it, just as he did in the systems run by former coaches Dennis Green, Ken Whisenhunt and Arians.
One day soon after retirement, Fitzgerald will be inducted into the team’s ring of honor. Five years from retirement, he likely will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“I think he’s the greatest Cardinal ever; I also think he’s the greatest athlete in Arizona history,” team President Michael Bidwill said in a recent radio interview.
“I think he’s the greatest community guy that gives back to the community in Arizona history. He is such an example both on and off the field.”
Cardinals insiders Kent Somers and Bob McManaman discuss the Cardinals’ hire of Steve Wilks as new head coach on Tuesday. Thomas Hawthorne/ azcentral sports
Larry Fitzgerald stats and milestones
- Holds franchise records for receptions, receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, total touchdowns, 100-yard receiving games (46), 1,000 yard seasons (9).
- 11 Pro Bowl Selections. He and Jerry Rice (13) are the only receivers in history to be named at least 11 times.
- Missed 6 games in 14 years
- 2016 co-winner Walter Payton NFL man of the year.
- Started 216 of 218 games.
- One of five players to record at least 15,000 receiving yards and 100 touchdown receptions