x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Winning is all that matters to Larry Fitzgerald

The star of the Cardinals' less-than-stellar passing offence hopes team's owners will spring for reinforcements.

Larry Fitzgerald, right, makes a reception under pressure against the Carolina Panthers.
Larry Fitzgerald, right, makes a reception under pressure against the Carolina Panthers.

Larry Fitzgerald, the Arizona Cardinals receiver, is just 14 yards shy of his fifth career 1,000-yard receiving season, quite an accomplishment considering the Cardinals are next to last in the NFL in passing offence.

It is little solace for a player with one more year on his contract, the face of a franchise that the Cardinals, who are run by the Bidwill family, dearly want to keep.

"I want to stay here. I enjoy playing for coach [Ken] Whisenhunt. I enjoy working for the Bidwills," Fitzgerald said. "They've always treated me good since I first got here. This is all I know. I can't ever say that I want to go anywhere else."

Fitzgerald last week became - at 27 years, 110 days - the youngest player in NFL history to reach 600 career receptions and the second-youngest, behind Randy Moss, to reach 8,000 yards receiving.

A week earlier, he broke Anquan Boldin's franchise record for receptions.

He will not, however, endure repeated seasons like this one.

The Cardinals (4-10) have lost eight of their past nine games going into their match-up against the Dallas Cowboys tomorrow night.

"I've said it before that the most important thing for me in my career is to win," Fitzgerald said. "I've been in the play-offs the last two seasons. Obviously we're not going to make it this year, but I know what it feels like to play in the post-season and this feeling is not the one I want to have at the conclusion of my year. It's just not a good feeling."

He will leave the specifics of the job ahead to the Arizona management.

"I'm not the guy that's pulling the trigger and saying this needs to be done or this needs to be addressed. I'm not that kind of player," Fitzgerald said.

He expressed confidence in the "guys upstairs", from the Cardinals president, Michael Bidwill, to the general manager, Rod Graves, the director of player personnel, Steve Keim, and Whisenhunt, and said he expects "they're going to get guys here and draft guys that are going to help us win games."

He said he will not place a deadline for a contract extension. "I'm not going to hold a team hostage," he said. "I think that's counterproductive. I had the opportunity to do that a few years ago and, at my core, I'm a team guy. Obviously, I want to be compensated for my work, no different than you or anybody else in America that's working, but I don't want it to be to the point where we can't make this thing go."

Fitzgerald is in line for his third big contract while still in his 20s. He came into the league at age 21 after Arizona made him the third pick in the 2004 college draft. In 2007, he signed a four-year, US$40 million (Dh146.9m) deal.

That extended a rookie contract initially of six years and $45m. He is scheduled to make $7m in 2111, the final year of his contract.

"I'm not concerned about it to be honest with you," Fitzgerald said. "If the Cardinals feel I'm worthy of an extension, they're going to keep me here. If they don't, then I won't be here. I'm just going to play hard and do everything I can these last two weeks."

It is hard to imagine a Cardinals team without Fitzgerald, who in the team's 2008 run to the Super Bowl shattered nearly every play-off receiving record. If he becomes a free agent, the value of a player so productive and still so young will be enormous.

The problem has been getting the ball to him. The three Arizona starting quarterbacks this season have completed only 50.5 per cent of their passes. Derek Anderson has been the best at a meagre 51.7 per cent.

Fitzgerald has 15 catches for 197 yards in the past two games, both with the rookie John Skelton at quarterback, including a season-best nine catches for 125 yards last week at Carolina.

"I really like his mentality," Fitzgerald said of Skelton. "He doesn't really show too much emotion. He doesn't get too high, too low, and he plays within himself. I like that."

Skelton is smart enough to know to throw the ball in Fitzgerald's direction as often as possible.

"I think having Larry and being a rookie quarterback, it's nice to have him out there running good routes," Skelton said. "That talent that he has will overcome a lot of rookie mistakes. Just giving him a chance and putting the ball up in his vicinity always helps."

They will be hoping to continue that sign of a promising partnership against Dallas tomorrow.