BY: ED COLE
GLENDALE, Ariz. – 13 regular season wins and the NFC West crown? Check.
An epic playoff victory over the Green Bay Packers that will never be forgotten? Check.
A win in the NFC Championship Game, followed by a win in Super Bowl 50? No check.
There’s still some unfinished business for the Arizona Cardinals this coming season.
“Definitely,” said Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. “It sucks that we played the way we did at that time (in the NFC Championship Game). It wasn’t a good game by any stretch of the imagination across the board, and to work that hard to get to that position, and not play up to your capabilities, it’s tough to digest, but we know that we have pretty much have the same nucleus of men coming back, and the same coaching staff, and we’re really happy about that. We made some new acquisitions as well, so we’re happy where we are, (and) we believe we have a good football coming down (this season).”
The excitement for the Cardinals in the state of Arizona, specifically in the Phoenix metro area, was incredible this past season. The team continued its streak of selling out home games at University of Phoenix Stadium, plus they were featured in a franchise-record five primetime games, further ramping up the excitement of the #BirdGang.
Fitzgerald’s first real glimpse of the fans, and their love for the team, came during that magical Super Bowl run back during the 2008-09 season.
“I think the fans have been really passionate about us,” Fitzgerald said. “Selling out every game, seeing the flags flying on cars, and hanging from people’s garages; they’re very passionate about Cardinals football. I think that’s on full display, when you can’t hear, or think, when the building’s (University of Phoenix Stadium) rocking. I think that’s only going to get better as we win more football games.”
Three men that will help the team “win more football games,” as Fitzgerald said, is newly acquired outside linebacker Chandler Jones, newly re-signed running back Chris Johnson and safety Tyrann Mathieu – all of whom are coming off fantastic seasons. Unfortunately for Johnson and Mathieu, theirs got cut short because of injuries, but before those injuries, Johnson and Mathieu were major cogs in the Cardinals high-powered offensive and defensive engines.
Fitzgerald’s excited to have all three men on his side for the 2016 campaign.
Fitzgerald on having Jones: “I think it’s great. I think it’s outstanding. He’s (Jones) going to definitely bring a great pass rushing ability to our defense. We already have an outstanding secondary, and (a) strong linebacking corps. To bring somebody in that can get 10+ sacks a year is only going to make us that much more potent.”
Fitzgerald on having Johnson: “It’s great. Anytime you can have three (running) backs (Chris Johnson, David Johnson, Andre Ellington) of those guys’ caliber, is only going to make our team stronger. Each guy is different. Each guy possesses a different challenge for defenses to prepare for, and I’m really happy he’s (Johnson) back with us because he brings us a dynamic playmaker.”
Fitzgerald on having Mathieu: “Ty’s (Mathieu) running already. They’re having to hold him back. He heals like Wolverine. He’s so passionate, and we love him dearly. We’re so happy to see he’s going to be ready to go for us at training camp, and he can pickup right where he left off. He was (the) defensive MVP, and (if) he had finished the season, he was right there in the conversation.”
With the Cardinals having Fitzgerald, Jones, Johnson and Mathieu, that’s a whole big serving of talent right there, not to mention everyone else who’s coming back this season.
That’s all fine and dandy, but Fitzgerald is constantly reminded of something his head coach told him about talent.
“(Cardinals head) coach (Bruce) Arians always says, ‘You can’t rank anybody on paper,’ we gotta see where we are when we get to training camp, and continue to build. We have a long way to go. We’re still going to make a lot of new acquisitions in the (2016 NFL) Draft, and I know we’re not done in free agency. (Cardinals general manager) Steve Keim and those guys are still working tirelessly.”