Larry Fitzgerald has been one of the NFL's best receivers since the Arizona Cardinals took him with the third overall pick in the 2004 draft. And despite a quarterback situation that bordered on the preposterous after Kurt Warner's retirement and the trade to Baltimore of battery mate Anquan Boldin, Fitzgerald still caught 90 passes for 1,137 yards and six touchdowns in the 2010 season. We caught up with Fitzgerald as he was enjoying his offseason, hoping that it wouldn't last too long with the current labor battles, and just after he had participated in the "Invite to Be Unstoppable" event on the EAS Unstoppable Tour, which is detailed here. We invite you to watch Sam and Larry go head-to-head in the upcoming days at www.UnstoppableTour.com.
Here's Part 1 of our interview.
Shutdown Corner: Talk a bit about the "invite to Be Unstoppable" promotion, and how you were involved in that.
Larry Fitzgerald: Absolutely. I was able to participate in the EAS Unstoppable tour and do some football drills with [former Navy SEAL] Sam [Tickle]. He did a really good job and was able to go through everything — he really showed his dedication and passion. If he didn't take it seriously, there's no way he could have gotten through such a grueling workout.
SC: What were the specific drills you went through with him?
LF: We went through receiver drills, pass-rushing drills, and linebacker drills. At the end, we had some guys out there with pads on, and he actually did some drills where he was running around — he did a really good job.
SC: With this being the time of year for the combine and pro days, I was wondering if this is something you still follow. Do you watch a guy like Julio Jones, who just tore the combine up, with any interest?
LF: Not really — I don't pay much attention to the draft process and all that. I know the players when I watch them on Saturdays, but in terms of really breaking them down, I don't get to that level.
SC: Coach Whisenhunt was obviously at Cam Newton's pro day. Quarterback is obviously a point of concern for the Cardinals going forward. I know you take a lot of responsibility for the decline in offensive production in the wake of Kurt Warner's retirement, but what was it like going from that great quarterback to a cast of many, where everyone was trying to figure it out at the same time?
LF: Well, when you lose a Hall of Famer like Kurt, our most valuable player over the last couple of years, and then you lose Anquan Boldin, Antrel Rolle and Karlos Dansby, that's a lot of firepower and a lot of guys that have been together for a while. They were difficult to replace, but that's what we have to do.
SC: This is the last year of your current contract — labor issues notwithstanding, do you see the Cardinals as the type of organization that can come back from all those personnel losses and succeed long-term with you on the roster for a number of years in the future?
LF: Coach Whisenhunt and his staff have a really good grasp of what's right in terms of winning, and I really like playing for them and in that city. Hopefully, we'll reach an agreement, and I'll be able to end my career there. That's what I would like to do.
SC: You've got some young receivers in an offense that's kind of re-generating — have you become a mentor to those other players?
LF: Well, I don't really look at myself as a mentor — I mean, Steve Breaston's older than me. But I've been here the longest, and there's no question that I'm always willing to help somebody out if they need it. But I don't do the "rah-rah" — it's not really my place.
SC: There's been a lot of talk about whether you were consulted about the quarterback situation and whether the Cards should go after this and that quarterback. Can you clarify whether Whisenhunt or Rod Graves ever came to you and asked for your take on that?
LF: Absolutely not — that's not how it works in the NFL. I'm just a number on the roster at the end of the day. There were 11s before me, and there will be 11s after me. I have a job to do, and that's not part of it, so I don't think they'd ever ask for my input.
It'd be nice if they gave me a title like 'Player Personnel/GM' or something like that — probably a sweet little gig [laughs]. But I won't see it in this lifetime.
SC: So, in the same way there were player-coaches in the old days, you could be, "Larry Fitzgerald, Wide Receiver/Assistant General Manager'!
LF: Oh, man — that would be awesome. I'd probably make more money, too!
SC: Especially this year, when the executives might get paid in the event of a lockout. And speaking of that — I know there's a lot you can't say with the negotiations going on, but what's your take in a nutshell about how things are going and how the players are represented by DeMaurice Smith and the current group in charge of the NFLPA?
LF: No question. De's been doing a great job from day one, educating us on what's to come, giving us ways to save our money in the event that we're not playing, and that's important. Right now, we just want to see the books, and I don't think that's too much to ask for. If [the owners] are going to ask for [an additional] billion dollars back, just show us why. We just want some understanding and verification. Players want to play; it's the game we all love, we know the fans love it, and we want to keep growing the game.