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Larry Fitzgerald wouldn’t say that the upcoming 2017 NFL season will be his last, but judging from his remarks on Sunday about wanting to walk away while still at the top of his game, it sure sounded and felt like this could be it for the Arizona Cardinals’ star wide receiver.

During a 13-minute interview at University of Phoenix Stadium, the future Hall of Famer spent most of his time talking about possible retirement, how he eventually will do it and with whom he’s counseled about when to ultimately make that final decision.

One thing is certain, the 14-year veteran and record-holder of every receiving statistic imaginable in Cardinals’ history doesn’t plan on bowing out awkwardly like some of the other biggest names in professional sports have done.

“The end is never really pretty for elite athletes,” Fitzgerald said. “It never looks good. I mean, you watch Michael Jordan in a Washington Wizards uniform. Or you see Tony Dorsett playing for the Denver Broncos. Or Shaquille O’Neal playing for the Boston Celtics. I mean, it’s weird because you’re used to seeing them when they’re at their most dominant stage.

“But Willie Mays running round with bad knees after 20 years, it’s not pretty. For me, I really want to be able to play and do the things that I love and be able to walk away and still be someone who could play. That’s something I pride myself on. I don’t want to be a stealer. I don’t want to steal like that.”

Asked point blank by azcentral sports if this will be his final season, Fitzgerald said, “I feel good right now. When that changes, I’ll let you know. … But it’ll never be in front of a podium and there will be no tears and none of that stuff. That’s not how it would ever be. That’s not how I am.”

More likely, Fitzgerald will take the Tim Duncan approach like the San Antonio Spurs center did and simply walk away without so much as a statement released by the team, let alone a full-bore news conference.

“I’m just one player out of 1,600 in the National Football League,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s a lot bigger than me and it’s never going to be like that.”

If Fitzgerald wants to leave at the top of his game, one last season seems appropriate. He led the NFL a year ago in total receptions (107) at age 33 and enjoyed the eighth 1,000-yard season (1,023) of his career. As Carson Palmer’s primary target once again this year, Fitzgerald should be able to at least get close to those numbers in 2017, if he remains healthy.

“Once you have 80 (receptions) in a season, you’ve had a pretty good season,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “Once you get to 100, special things happen.”

Given his experience, his hand-eye coordination and ability to come up big in the clutch, one could argue Fitzgerald would still be a key contributor even at 80 percent of his physical best. Playing primarily as a slot receiver anyway, surely he could continue to play an important role.

But if it’s not the most important role, Fitzgerald doesn’t want any part of it.

“Mentally, I would struggle with that,” he said. “It was a struggle even when you still feel like you can do things and you’re not a Number 1 option. That would be a struggle for me.”

To gauge his readiness for impending retirement, Fitzgerald spent the offseason doing what he has for the past few years and called upon fellow NFL stars, those who are both playing and those who have since retired. He mentioned three directly by name on Sunday – Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, former Colts and Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and former Chiefs and Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez.

“All the guys I really respect and admire,” Fitzgerald said, noting each person he talked to had their own advice on the subject. “It’s not something where you wake up one morning and say, ‘I’m done.’ It’s something that’s kind of bubbling for a while. I think you just know.”

If Fitzgerald knows, he’s not saying. And if there’s ever going to be an official announcement, it will on his terms and in his own way.

He did say that his decision will not be affected in any way by what Arians or Palmer might do. Both of those men are also being asked frequently about retirement and it’s quite possible still that all three could be gone after this year.

“I don’t really make any decisions based off of anybody else,” Fitzgerald said. “I never have. I don’t know what the future holds. That’s why this year is so much more important, because we don’t have to be thinking about what we’re going to be doing after Feb. 4.

“It doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is from today until then and how we can improve and get better and do what we need to do to give ourselves an opportunity just to get into the playoffs and possibly win the division and try to win the NFC Championship and get to the Super Bowl.”

It’s only about winning that elusive Super Bowl ring for Fitzgerald.

“Well, that’s huge,” he said. “That’s the only reason I’m playing at this point.”

Moore: New book, media tour shows it’s now or never for Bruce Arians and Carson Palmer

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Reach McManaman at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @azbobbymac and listen to him live every Wednesday night between 7-9 on Fox Sports 910-AM on The Freaks with Kenny and Crash.