Larry Fitzgerald Reminisces About Cardinals Debut as Season Starts Without WR

Larry Fitzgerald - Aaron RodgersRo

Getty Former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (left) shares a laugh with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers during the American Century Championship at Edgewood Tahoe South Golf Course on July 9, 2020, in South Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Fitzgerald says Rodgers will win the NFL MVP again this season.

Larry Fitzgerald didn’t get much sleep the night before his NFL debut 17 years ago, and by the time the game was over, the longtime Arizona Cardinals receiver said he was “completely exasperated.”

“I was so, so tired from not only the physical activity, but just the mental stress that I put on myself to want to do well and wanting to perform at the highest level,” Fitzgerald said Monday, September 6, on the first episode of SiriusXM’s “Let’s Go” radio show and podcast.

Fitzgerald, the Cardinals’ No. 3 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, spent the week leading up to the September 12, 2004, game shadowing running back Emmitt Smith, “just trying to follow his routine to try to be able to get myself to a place where I was comfortable,” he said.

“I never was able to get there.”

Fitzgerald, now 38, says he’ll be feeling no such stress on Sunday, September 12, when the Cardinals take the field without him for the first time in 17 seasons. Instead, he’ll be watching and cheering on his former teammates from the comfort of his home as Arizona visits Tennessee to open the 2021 season.

“I miss the interaction with my teammates,” he admitted, “but I’m in a good place, spending time with the family, playing a little golf, doing a little travel, getting a chance to spend some time with people that you never really get a chance to spend (time with) at this time of the year.”

For now, Fitzgerald said he’s content to be a spectator and share his insights to the games each Monday on “Let’s Go,” which also features Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and is hosted by Emmy Award-winning broadcaster Jim Gray.

Fitzgerald reiterated that he doesn’t have the desire to play “right now,” while keeping the door open for a possible return to the field at some point.

“You never know what tomorrow holds,” he said, “but right now, I’m very content.”

Fitzgerald covered a variety of topics on “Let’s Go,” weighing in on where he thinks Cam Newton should play this season, as well as the 49ers’ quarterback situation and playoff chances. He also announced his picks for individual player awards and offered a Super Bowl prediction.

And he reminisced about his own NFL debut all those years ago.

“There was no better feeling than stepping on that field and being able to realize your lifelong goal of playing in a National Football League game,” he said.

Newton to Baltimore?

While Fitzgerald is uncertain about his own football future, he answered with an emphatic “absolutely” when asked if Newton will get another NFL job this season.

Newton, the former NFL MVP with the Carolina Panthers, was released by the Patriots on August 31 and so far has not signed with another team. Fitzgerald said he believes Newton would be a good fit with the Baltimore Ravens as a backup to Lamar Jackson.

“I believe Cam has a lot of good football left in him,” he said. “When I look around the league, I look at a team like the Baltimore Ravens. They run a very similar system to what he had in Carolina when he was the MVP.”

Fitzgerald said Newton’s decision not to get vaccinated for COVID-19 may be hindering his search for a new team, but he still believes in the 32-year-old quarterback’s ability to play in the NFL.

“You can’t argue his talent. You can’t argue his ability to lead a team. He’s done it, he’s shown it, he’s proven that he’s capable of doing it,” Fitzgerald said. “Would I like him to be vaccinated before I sign him? Absolutely. But I’m not putting in question if Cam can still play the game, because I think he can still play and be effective.”

Go with Garoppolo

Fitzgerald also believes in 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, saying San Francisco would be better served with the eighth-year veteran under center rather than rookie Trey Lance.

“Going with the veteran, I think, gives a little bit more continuity to the team,” he said. “Obviously, (Lance) is the future of that organization. He’s played phenomenal throughout training camp and over the course of three preseason games.

“But Jimmy has a great rapport with his teammates. He’s built that trust over a few years. I’m not saying you sit Trey down for the whole season, but I think you start off with a proven guy who can run the system, who’s proven he can do that.”

No matter who starts at quarterback, Fitzgerald said he doesn’t see the 49ers as Super Bowl contenders this season.

“I think they can be in the conversation in the NFC West,” he said. “But winning the championship? I don’t think so right now.”

Picking the MVP, Super Bowl Champs

Fitzgerald said he expects the MVP race to come down to last season’s winner, Aaron Rodgers, and 2018 MVP Patrick Mahomes, with the Packers quarterback prevailing in what may be his final season in Green Bay.

But when it came time to pick a Super Bowl winner, Fitzgerald went with his “Let’s Go” co-host, saying Brady and the Buccaneers will defeat the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.

“He’s done it seven times, been to the Super Bowl 10 times,” Fitzgerald said of Brady. “I think just with all the players they were able to retain, all 22 starters back, I think it’s going to be tough to beat them.”

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