Larry Fitzgerald turns 34 next month. The Cardinals receiver reported to his 14th training camp still going strong, having caught 107 passes for 1,023 yards and six touchdowns last season.
“I can still play at a high level,” Fitzgerald said Sunday, via Josh Weinfuss of ESPN. “If my number is called, I can still make a play.”
Fitzgerald made it clear he isn’t going into this season thinking it’s his last, but he acknowledged it could be. He wants to decide on his own terms when he walks away, pointing to Lions receiver Calvin Johnson and NBA player Tim Duncan as examples.
“The end is never really pretty for elite athletes,” Fitzgerald said. “It never looks good for the most time. You watch Michael Jordan in a Washington Wizards uniform or see Tony Dorsett playing for the Denver Broncos or Shaquille O’Neal playing for the Boston Celtics. It’s weird because you’re used to seeing them play at their most dominant stage, or Willie Mays running around with bad knees 20 years in. It’s not pretty. But for me, I really want to be able to play and do things at a high level and be able to walk away and still be someone who can play at a high level.”
With 1,125 receptions for 14,389 yards and 104 touchdowns, Fitzgerald already has Canton numbers. What he lacks is a championship. He played in Super Bowl XLIII in 2009.
“That’s huge,” Fitzgerald said of winning a title. “That’s the only reason I’m playing at this point. From a personal standpoint and the things I’ve accomplished, they’re fine. But the thing that you will say is out of you control because you’re in a team sport, is a championship.”
Coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer’s futures after this season are uncertain, too, but Fitzgerald said that won’t play a part in whether he returns in 2018.
“I don’t really make any decisions based on anybody else,” Fitzgerald said. “I never really 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 think about what we’re doing after Feb. 4. It doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is the day until then and how we can improve and get better and do what we need to do to give ourselves an opportunity to just get into the playoffs and possibly win the division and try to win the NFC championship game and get to the Super Bowl.
“That’s really what’s important. The long term doesn’t mean anything at this point.”