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Larry Fitzgerald Is The

Heart Of Arizona Cardinals

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Image by Jeff Kern and used under the terms of Creative Commons license.
The Dreadlocked One By Way Of Minnesota Is Having A Rebirth This Season After The Disasters That Were The Immediate Post-Kurt Warner Years And Has Played A Major Role In Developing The Receiver Corps

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By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine

Nov. 5, 2014 — The Cardinals are 7-1 and sit atop the NFC, some might even say the NFL. And, while the team’s immense success is surely surprising, the main source of it is not. That’s because Larry Fitzgerald has been setting a standard of excellence for the team since he came into the league in 2004.

On paper, that statement is easy to justify. Fitzgerald is one of the top wide receivers to ever play the game. His 89 career touchdown receptions rank 11th among the all time greats and his 11,880 receiving yards rank 25th all time.

He’s done all of that with just two legitimate starting quarterbacks. Granted, Kurt Warner is a likely Hall of Famer who quarterbacked for Fitzgerald for the majority of his career — 2005-2009. But, that shouldn’t take away from the what the wide receiver is capable of.

Fitzgerald obviously put up great numbers with Warner at the helm, but he also had one of the best years of his career in 2011 (80 receptions, 1,411 yards, 17.8 yard average, 8 touchdowns) with Andy Reidenstein’s monster (Kevin Kolb) and some other guy (John Skelton) under center.

This is the guy who went for over 1,000 yards and six touchdowns with Skelton, Derek “I take this shit serious” Anderson, and former BYU standout Max Hall at quarterback.

But, Fitzgerald’s true value to the organization and its current success goes well beyond the numbers. It’s the way he plays the game and the example he sets for other players that’s really put this team in a position to rise to the top.

The Cardinals’ star hasn’t put up great numbers recently. He hasn’t reached 1,000 yards in a season since that great 2011 season. Most of the blame for that can be put on 2012’s remake of The Three Stooges starring Kolb, Skelton, and Ryan Lindley and growing pains under the new offensive system last season.

That being said, it couldn’t be easy for Fitzgerald to perform at that level and hear the whispers that he’s lost a step or two, all the while floundering in an organization that looked ready to return to mediocrity and fail to deliver that coveted Super Bowl ring.

Most wide receivers would take that as a sign to whine and complain their way out of town for the chance to play on a contender. And, by most I mean almost every single other wide receiver. We’ve seen examples over and over again of diva receivers placing themselves over the team. Just look it up in the dictionary under TERRELL OWENS SYNDROME.

Even in the worst of times, Fitzgerald has always chosen the diplomatic path. Even when his brother and father have tried to voice frustration for him, he always seems to shake off the controversy and put the team first.

That’s not to say he isn’t frustrated when things are going poorly for the team or him personally. Anyone who’s followed the Cardinals since Fitz’s debut, has seen the frustration on Fitzgerald’s face after a dropped pass, missed opportunity or tough loss. But, he doesn’t let the negativity sour the locker room and is a legitimately good role model for the other players.

And, that seems to be paying off. Outside of sparkplug running back Andre Ellington, the Cardinals deep receiving corps is its top offensive weapon. And, once again, Fitzgerald deserves a fair amount of praise for helping develop young wide receivers.

The two big threats outside of Fitzgerald were anything but safe bets coming out of college. Michael Floyd had definite talent but was also a bit of a problem child. He’s seemed nothing less than professional since coming to the Cardinals, though, and is also one of the best young jump ball receivers in the NFL, both qualities he learned from the veteran. It likely helped that they knew each other from their home state, Minnesota.

But Fitz has also impacted receivers he never knew before the Cardinals. Small-school rookie John Brown has been sensational as well and has attributed much of that success to shadowing Fitzgerald and soaking in his knowledge.

Oh, and let’s not forget that the vet is showing shades of the Fitzgerald of old. He’s not okay with just sitting back and teaching the kids how to do things. He’s performing and is on pace for his first 1,000 yard season since 2011.

The Cardinals are now favorites by many to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. If they do, it’ll be the first time that the hosting city’s home team played in the big game. And, if the Cardinals can win it, it’ll be a dream come true for Larry Fitzgerald and a well-deserved one at that.

Call Kirk Cameron: The Suns have growing pains
We’re only four games into the regular season, so take everything I say with a grain of salt. In the words of the immortal Denny Green, I believe the Suns are who we thought they were, but the rest of the NBA isn’t letting them off of the hook.

The team appears to be undergoing some growing pains as it adjusts to new pieces on the roster and acclimates itself to the success of last season. The team is no longer a surprise contender and won’t be overlooked by its opponents.

The players found that out the hard way when it lost its first game of the season 118-91 to a lackluster, albeit improved, Utah Jazz squad.

That being said, the team is still 3-1 (though two of those wins have come against an awful Lakers team). The struggles against the Jazz don’t appear to be anything serious, just a team trying to get its bearings. Goran Dragic doesn’t look comfortable in the new three guard offense, but that doesn’t worry me. Coach Jeff Hornacek has proven himself a deft player manager and should be able to work out the kinks.

Eric Bledsoe has also struggled a bit (especially in his disastrous performance against the Lakers), but is distributing the ball well and settling into the “main” point guard role. He should shake off the rust after a few weeks. He did miss the offseason, after all.

The Suns also have some major bright spots. New acquisition Isaiah Thomas hasn’t wasted any time getting into the swing of things. He averaged 18.7 points through the first three games. The Morris brothers have also been great on both ends of the floor and Alex Len is finally developing into the imposing presence the team needs at the five.

Wayne Schutsky is a senior contributor to Modern Times Magazine.
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