Larry Fitzgerald needs three more years like 2019 to break Jerry Rice’s catch record

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The news that Larry Fitzgerald will play in 2020 raises a question that once seemed unthinkable: Could Jerry Rice’s record for career catches be broken?

Rice retired after the 2004 season with 1,549 catches in his career. At the time, he was 448 ahead of the next-closest receiver, Cris Carter, and no one coming along was expected to come close. Rice’s record looked unbreakable.

But Fitzgerald, who was a rookie in Rice’s final season, is getting close. Fitzgerald is now second in NFL history with 1,378 career catches. Fitzgerald had 75 catches in 2019, so he’d need three more seasons like that to break Rice’s record. Could Fitzgerald, who will turn 37 before this season, really keep playing at this level through his age-39 season? It’s a long shot, but it says a lot about Fitzgerald’s career that it’s even a conversation worth having.

Rice’s career records for receiving yards (22,895) and receiving touchdowns (197) are out of reach for Fitzgerald or anyone else for many more years. But the catches record may change hands, if Fitzgerald decides to keep playing.