NFL: Could native son Fitzgerald return ‘home’?
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Will Larry Fitzgerald be pulling for the Vikings in all 16 games next season, or perhaps just 15? Fitzgerald, the Minneapolis native and Arizona Cardinals star wide receiver, doesn't shy away from the fact that he grew up a Vik...
GLENDALE, Ariz. - Will Larry Fitzgerald be pulling for the Vikings in all 16 games next season, or perhaps just 15?
Fitzgerald, the Minneapolis native and Arizona Cardinals star wide receiver, doesn’t shy away from the fact that he grew up a Vikings fan.
“I still pull for them every single game unless we’re playing against them,” Fitzgerald said Sunday. “I can go on and on and down the line with all the guys that I truly respect on that ballclub, and I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t want to see them do well.”
The Vikings play the Cardinals in Arizona next season, but there is speculation that Fitzgerald, who has played for the Cardinals in all 11 of his NFL seasons, won’t be back.
Fitzgerald has a $23.6 million salary-cap number for 2015. At 31, he likely would have to take a pay cut to return. If cut, he could sign with any team, including the Vikings, the team for which he worked five seasons as a ball boy while growing up on Minneapolis.
Speaking with the Pioneer Press before the Super Bowl on Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium, Fitzgerald chose his words carefully when asked about the Vikings.
“Well, I’m under contract still with the Arizona Cardinals, so I can’t answer where I’ll be,” he said. “If I’m released, obviously there will be opportunities there, but I’m still under contract to the Arizona Cardinals. ... This is where I got drafted, and this is where I started and I’ve enjoyed playing here, but you never know.”
An eight-time Pro Bowler, Fitzgerald said he doesn’t pay heed to media reports on his future, but acknowledges that he might have played his final game for the Cardinals.
“I’m not one really to read and watch too much TV, to be completely honest with you,” Fitzgerald said. “If it was my last time playing here, I had a great 11-year run, but if it continues, that’s great as well. ... I’m not sure exactly what the future holds, but I’m excited to see.”
As to whether Fitzgerald would take a pay cut to stay in Arizona, he said that will be addressed when the NFL calendar officially turns to 2015 next month.
“We still have got to get into all of those details,” he said. “It’s not March yet, so it’s not urgent, and so I’m just going to play it by ear.”
Fitzgerald expressed some frustration that the Cardinals weren’t able to play in the Super Bowl in their home stadium. They started the season 9-1 before injuries to quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton derailed their hopes. But, he said, the state had a “great week” as host to the NFL championship.
Fitzgerald played golf one day with Vikings hall of fame defensive tackle John Randle and Matt Kuchar in the Waste Management Open Pro-Am. The highlight of his week was Saturday, when he received the inaugural Art Rooney Award, which recognizes sportsmanship.
“It was humbling to be the first recipient of any award and it being one named for one of the great ambassadors of our game,” Fitzgerald said of the late Pittsburgh Steelers owner.
Before the Super Bowl, Fitzgerald met with Dan Rooney, the Steelers’ chairman and Art Rooney’s son, and they shared a warm embrace.
“He’s a great football player who emphasizes what that award is about,” Rooney said. “He’s a class person, and he has integrity.”
Fitzgerald said he will remain in Arizona before returning to his home in Eden Prairie “when the snow leaves.” He plans to work out this summer at the University of Minnesota.
Fitzgerald has been joined in his workouts in recent years by many Vikings players, including Teddy Bridgewater, Christian Ponder, Everson Griffen, Phil Loadholt and Marcus Sherels. Stay tuned to see if he eventually works with Vikings players in NFL practices.
The Pioneer Press is a media partner with the Forum News Service.