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With Larry Fitzgerald, there’s always a catch
It looked like a scene from one of those movies that feel the need to make the NFL appear even more physical than it is.
During the Seahawks’ 2011 season finale in Arizona, the TV camera caught Cardinals’ wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald coughing up blood on the sidelines. The reason was later traced to a bruised lung, which was the result of the Seahawks’ defensive backs roughing him up while limiting Fitzgerald to one reception for 1 yard in the first half.
That’s when Fitzgerald gave the Seahawks a painful reminder of just how good he is.
On the overtime drive to a game-winning field goal, Fitzgerald caught three passes for 46 yards – including a 26-yarder on the first third-down play in the 13-play, 71-yard drive. That was after catching three passes for 44 yards in a third-quarter drive to a touchdown and a 41-yarder on a fourth-quarter drive to a field goal.
All this is relevant, of course, because the Seahawks are preparing to return to University of Phoenix Stadium for a rematch with the Cardinals and their red-letter receiver on Thursday night.
“Larry is a great competitor. He’s a very professional guy. It’s a reason he’s had so much success in this league,” All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas, the leader of the Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom” secondary, said in the locker room at Virginia Mason Athletic Center on Tuesday – which was actually a combination of Wednesday and Thursday in this short week to prepare.
There is no secret to Fitzgerald’s success since being the third pick overall in the 2004 NFL Draft.
“What he does particularly well is catch the ball,” cornerback Brandon Browner said.
Six games into his 10th NFL season, Fitzgerald has done that 794 times for 10,818 yards and 81 TDs. So it goes without saying that Fitzgerald has been tormenting the Seahawks since long before most of the current Seahawks were around.
Browner recalled seeing a Sports Science segment on ESPN that featured Fitzgerald.
“They hung the dude upside down and he was catching the ball,” Browner said, shaking his head.
Seeing is believing, as they say, and what Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has seen from Fitzgerald definitely has made him a believer.
“I don’t think that there’s a player at his position that’s better than Larry,” Carroll said. “I think he’s as good as you can get. He’s proven that. Guys can have years and have a couple runs at it, but he’s done it for a long time with his competitiveness; his amazing skill; great body; terrific speed; route running; and just the come-through way that he has about him.
“He’s as good as you get.”
And Fitzgerald obviously is just as good at taking it as he is at giving it, as that performance in the 2011 finale against the Seahawks proved. Again.
The 6-foot-3, 218-pound Fitzgerald also can be like the sweet-and-sour of NFL receivers.
“Larry kind of lulled us to sleep,” Thomas said. “He’s a nice guy. He gives you nice compliments on the field. I just don’t look at him. I say, ‘Alright, if I catch you coming across the middle I’m going to try and do what I have to do.’ He’s a great guy off the field, but it’s a business and I’m ready to play.”
As is Fitzgerald, despite playing the first six games on a pair of sore hamstrings that have him off to a slow start – at least by his seven-time Pro Bowl selection standards.
“You’re always trying to find the ultimate competition,” Thomas said. “And that’s the ultimate competition right there.”