Cardinals' Fitzgerald insists he's not frustrated
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP)
Larry Fitzgerald has 27 catches this season, not enough to crack the NFL's top 20. His 427 yards receiving rank 12th in the league, 358 behind NFL leader Wes Welker. Fitzgerald has 67 career touchdown receptions, two this year.
The stats are tempered by the fact Arizona has played five games while others have played six, but the point remains that he and new quarterback Kevin Kolb have yet to click the way they had envisioned.
Still, Fitzgerald said he's experiencing ''no frustration at all'' that he isn't getting the ball more often.
''Things come in bunches, you know,'' he said after practice Thursday. ''I'm always going to stay confident and try to be ready when my number's called. You can't allow that stuff to seep into your mind, the doubt or anything like that, you've got to just stay positive.''
He said that some recent comments he made were not intended to criticize the current makeup of the team, which is 1-4 and has lost four straight heading into Sunday's home game against Pittsburgh. Fitzgerald said he was only pointing out that the Cardinals' 2008 Super Bowl squad was loaded with talent.
''He asked me what's different about 2008 and I just explained to him you've got to remember Kurt Warner was here, he's a Hall of Famer. Anquan Boldin was here, he's a three- or four-time Pro Bowler,'' Fitzgerald said. ''I mean, we had Antrel Rolle, we had Karlos Dansby. We're talking about Pro Bowl-caliber guys on both sides of the ball. I wasn't saying that we `need' these type of players.''
Fitzgerald wishes he had expressed himself a bit differently. He normally goes out of his way to avoid controversial comments about anything, especially his teammates.
''I'm never going to throw anybody under the bus, man,'' he said.
The first thing teams facing Arizona want to do is take Fitzgerald out of the equation as much as possible. Where once Arizona had Boldin and Steve Breaston at the other wide receiver spots, there is Andre Roberts and Early Doucet. But Fitzgerald refuses to get upset about the smothering coverages he faces.
''I don't really think of it like that,'' he said. ''The defense is going to do what the defense is going to do. We have to adjust off of it. It doesn't matter if Jerry Rice is playing here or Shannon Sharpe or we had a team of all stars. The ball has to go where it's supposed to go. It's as simple as that.''
Offensive coordinator Larry Miller said getting Fitzgerald the ball always has been a challenge.
''Defenses are smart. They're going to step up, look at our personnel through the years, and say who's our best guy,'' Miller said. ''No. 11 is always at the top or towards the top and it's `Hey, we can't let this guy beat us.' It's a challenge each week.''
Fitzgerald has been targeted a team-high 43 times; with the 27 catches it's not an impressive percentage but an improvement over last year.
Fitzgerald signed an eight-year, $120 million contract - with guarantees approaching $50 million - before this season, shortly after the Cardinals acquired Kolb from Philadelphia and gave him a five-year, $63 million contract, with $21 million guaranteed. The two talked about their perfect pairing but it's been a tough go for Kolb to absorb an entirely new system without the benefit of an offseason. He knows that getting the ball to Fitzgerald is the key to success.
''I'll be honest with you, it's one of those deals where you know he is one of the greatest players in the NFL and you want to give him the ball, but you can't force things that aren't there,'' Kolb said. ''That's when you start to play out of the box and you can't win that way. We are doing some different things we are excited about involving him, and Larry is a great teammate and a great player and he understands every facet of the game. He understands how hard it is, and that's what we are working on.''
Warner learned that with someone as talented as Fitzgerald, he should get the ball sometimes even when a regular player would be considered well-covered. Kolb is still trying to figure out when that's true and when it isn't.
''That's a feel or a rhythm thing that the quarterback might be in,'' Miller said.
It takes time.
''You've got to build that rapport, know if I put the ball in a certain area I feel confident this guy is going to make this play,'' Miller said. ''More times than not, if it's put on his (Fitzgerald's) frame, he'll be able to make that play. You've got to be able to know when to take that shot, I guess.''
Fitzgerald, who holds Cardinals career records for receptions, yards receiving, touchdown catches and 100-yard receiving games, insists he and Kolb have ''made positive strides.''
''We've had some bad plays, we've had some good plays,'' he said. ''That's how it goes throughout the course of an NFL season. We've got to stay positive when tough times are around and play our way out of it, fight our way out of it.''