Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald talks about the new season and working with his new head coach, Steve Wilks.
When Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald decided to play again this fall, he knew he was signing up for work in the spring, too.
So he didn’t complain when the team’s strength and conditioning program began two weeks ago. And he won’t be bellyaching on Tuesday when a three-day voluntary minicamp begins.
“Football is different than any other sport,” Fitzgerald said on Monday. “When you make a decision to come back, you have to be fully engaged in the task at hand. I know what’s expected of me. I know what’s required, so I’m ready to go.”
Fitzgerald, who turns 35 in August, is entering his 15th season and will be playing for his fourth head coach, Steve Wilks.
The new coach and the best player in Arizona Cardinals history have spent a considerable amount of time together over the past month, and Fitzgerald is impressed.
“He’s hard-working, humble and extremely inquisitive,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s an unbelievable leader. I was impressed just seeing how he interacted with people. He knows names of the people upstairs, the marketing department, the landscapers, the custodians and lunch ladies.
“Just the times he’s addressed our team, you get the feeling of, ‘Man, I want to follow him.’ ”
Cards wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald talks about the new coaches he will play for this year and the need to prove himself every season.
Fitzgerald raved about Wilks’ staff, too, including offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, the former Chargers head coach.
This is also the fourth different offense Fitzgerald will learn, and if the offseason goes as planned, Sam Bradford likely will become the 15th quarterback to throw a touchdown pass to Fitzgerald.
“It’s more about me getting on his page,” Fitzgerald said, “learning his mechanics, where he wants me to be, things that he expects of me. I need to learn that so I can go out there and be the guy he needs me to be.”
The Cardinals have retooled the offense this offseason. Bradford was signed to replace Carson Palmer, who retired. Guard Justin Pugh and tackle Andre Smith will be new starters on the right side of the offensive line, and Fitzgerald is surrounded by new faces at receiver, including Brice Butler.
But are those changes enough to keep pace with the Rams? They won the NFC West last year and added receiver Brandin Cooks, defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh and cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters this offseason.
Or to hold off the 49ers, who went 5-0 with Jimmy Garoppolo as their starting quarterback at the end of last season?
“I think we’ve done enough to sustain,” Fitzgerald said. “Getting David (Johnson) back healthy again. Defensively, I think we’re in a great position. I’m excited about what we’re going to be able to do.”
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald talks about the 8th Annual Larry Fitzgerald Double Play Celebrity Softball game, Saturday, April 21, at Salt River Fields.
This week’s camp is the extra one granted to new coaches, and it’s the first time Wilks and his staff will be on the field with players. There is a “prove it” attitude among the players, Fitzgerald said.
“I like the fact that everybody, no matter who you are and what you’ve done, you’ve got to go out there and learn a position,” he said. “You’ve got earn the trust of a coach to believe in you, to have you on his team.”
That includes a future Hall of Famer who could move into second place all-time in receptions and receiving yardage.
“The moment you start smelling the roses and thinking, ‘I’ve done this and I’ve done that,’ that’s when the train goes off the tracks,” Fitzgerald said. “I’ve always been that way. I never take it for granted. I know how it is with new coaches. They want to come in and establish a certain thing and you’ve got to get on board.”