GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) _ When Larry Fitzgerald finally decides to hang up the cleats for good, one thing he will not miss is training camp.
“Training camp stinks when you’re bad, training camp stinks when you’re good,” he said before the Cardinals went through their first practice in full pads on Sunday. “It’s training camp, man.”
This is the 13th camp for the wide receiver with career statistics that rank among the best who have played the game. It’s a necessary exercise in monotony, he said.
Will it be his last?
“I have no idea,” he said. “I don’t even know what I’m having for dinner tonight.”
Fitzgerald, who turns 33 on Aug. 31, is in the final season of a two-year, $22 million deal. The Cardinals are the only team he has known since they drafted him No. 3 overall in 2004.
And he returns to a team loaded with talent. Every player who gained a yard or scored a point for one of the most potent offenses in the NFL last season is back.
“To be able to bring back that kind of power to a team that’s already really good, it really is unheard of,” Fitzgerald said. “But we’re back to the basics now. We have to learn how to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes we made last year, get off to a fast start. That’s the most important thing for us right now on the third day of training camp.”
Fitzgerald had one of his best seasons in 2015, catching 109 passes to break the franchise record he set a decade earlier. His 1,215 yards receiving marked the seventh time he passed 1,000 yards in a season.
Now his career goals have dwindled to one.
“I just want to win a championship,” he said. “That’s it.”
The Cardinals are a lot better known to football fans after the acclaimed “All or Nothing” video series on Amazon.com chronicled the team’s march to a 13-3 season, dramatic playoff victory over Green Bay and crushing loss at Carolina in the NFC championship game.
Fitzgerald said the series, produced by NFL Films, “gave everybody the view that we always see.”
“We’ve got a great group in this locker room,” he said. “Everybody’s really approachable and close. There’s no egos in here. We all want to work. It’s not above anybody to do whatever is asked of us.
“That’s hard to put together a team like that that’s committed to that mentality for a whole season. It’s a privilege to be on this squad and I think everybody who watched it got the same sense.”
Now the Cardinals have to start from scratch again.
“There’s a lot of optimism,” Fitzgerald said. “You look at the team and what we’ve been able to put together this offseason and what we have returning from last year’s team, it’s a lot of excitement. I think we all understand that we have the ability to be a force to be reckoned with throughout the course of the year.’
“Obviously the health of our team has a big part to do with that, but what we have and the pieces we have are pretty special.”
Fitzgerald had his usual world travels this offseason, to France, England and Africa this time.
He also lost two of the most important men in his life.
His friend and former coach Dennis Green died of a heart attack. His agent Eugene Parker succumbed to kidney cancer.
Fitzgerald was a ball boy for the Green-coached Minnesota Vikings. And Green was the Cardinals coach when the team drafted him.
“Those two men were tremendous mentors for me,” Fitzgerald said. “Coach Green gave me both of the jobs I’ve ever had in my life. All the ups and downs I’ve gone through in my career, he’s always been there for me. Same with my agent Eugene Parker. I met him when I was 19 years old. We grew together through the years.
“So it’s really tough losing two people that I hold in the highest regard.”