Very little things are as synonymous as Larry Fitzgerald and the Arizona Cardinals organization. Since his introduction into the league in 2004, Fitzgerald has worked extremely hard on and off the field to emerge as not only a face of the franchise, but also one of the faces of the NFL.
As the Cardinals head into training camp, they do so without Fitzgerald, at least right away. Fitzgerald is still pondering his future as a player, a decision that has resulted in no timetable for either him or the organization.
"It definitely feels weird without him," Cardinals receiver Christian Kirk said Tuesday after the team's conditioning test opened camp. "(Today) was the first time I've sat down in my locker and he hasn't been next to me. So there's definitely going to be a little bit of an adjustment period for me . . . He's been around the organization for so long, so not having him here on the first day is a little weird."
It's likely an odd situation for Fitzgerald as well, who still figures to be in the process of ultimately deciding what to do.
A big word around the Cardinals locker room has been: Respect. A certain amount of respect is paid to Fitzgerald with the work he's done for the organization throughout the years. That same respect has been applied to Fitzgerald and his upcoming decision.
Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury says the team truly has no idea what he will do, and they're just fine with that.
“The ball’s in his court,” he said. “We feel like we have great depth in that group, regardless, but we’ll have a plan either way."
Continuing the metaphor, which was apt considering Fitzgerald's part-ownership of the Phoenix Suns, which advanced to the NBA Finals before losing to the Milwaukee Bucks in six games, Kingsbury added, " “We’ve left it in his court. He’s earned that. That’s how we felt as an organization and so that’s where it’s at.”
Running back Chase Edmonds was perhaps the most heartfelt of all, almost reaching out to Fitzgerald after getting settled in his room for training camp.
"We're in our usual rooms and Larry's room is usually to my far right," said Edmonds. "It's just not the same right now, so I'm going to give him a holler (on the phone)."
When it comes to answers, it doesn't appear any players have inside scoops. That's surely because of the overwhelming amount of respect and space both player and organization have shown Fitzgerald.
"Nah, no, I don't ask Larry that man. I kind of let him do his own thing. He's a grown man. He's been around the block a few times. Whenever he's ready, I'm sure he'll have a decision made," Edmonds said.
Whether Fitzgerald arrives to camp or not, Kingsbury said the Cardinals will have a plan with/without the future Hall of Fame pass-catcher. For the mean time, however, Arizona looks to lay the foundation of a successful season in the absence of a cornerstone player.