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Larry Fitzgerald, in a 'prove it' mentality, adjusts to changed role on offense

After playing only one receiver position since high school, he is working hard to play three this season.


Larry Fitzgerald is very good at his job. He catches balls that are thrown to him. But last year, he was very unhappy with the team and himself. This is why he is doing less talking. He has limited his availability with the press and has not been as publicly vocal.

There is a reason why.

"I told you guys earlier, this is prove it for me," he told reporters after the conclusion of mini-camp. "It's not about the talking or sound bytes. It's about going out there and being productive, getting back to the level of play I am accustomed to."

He is ashamed of last season. "Last year would be enough to drive anyone off the edge," he said. "I just don't ever want to repeat what happened last year. You put that kind of stuff on tape and it's hard to keep a job."

Those are harsh words from a man who is considered by his peers to be one of the top 25 players in the league. Yet he knows that he underachieved last year. Yes, the situation was nearly impossible with the quarterback situation (he had a total of two balls all year thrown to him over 20 yards that were catchable), but he also left many plays on the field. He dropped some and he failed to come up with some that he would have in previous years.

He is assuming nothing.

In fact, he hasn't even told his quarterback to look for him, even if he is covered, like the message was to Kurt Warner back in the day.

"No, I'm too busy just trying to learn where I've got to be and figure out my assignments," he explained. "Once I have that down pat, then I'll try to get in his ear a little bit. But until then, I've got to know what the heck I am doing."

He doesn't know what the heck he is doing because, for the first time in his career, he is being asked to play multiple receiver positions. It has taken some adjustment and some convincing, but he is doing it. He wouldn't call it "difficult" to do, though.

"I think as a human being, you're a bit of a creature of habit," he explained. "I've played the same position since I was a junior in high school. I've never really had to move around and I've gotten good at it.

"I think we all resist change to a certain degree, especially if you've had a little bit of success. As I've gone through these offseason workouts, I've definitely become more receptive of it."

Bruce Arians put it simply."It's a matter of ‘do you want 100 balls?'" he said frankly. "You want 100 balls, move around.

"If they know where you're at, it's easier to take you out of the game and I think Reggie (Wayne) bought in right away last year. Fitz is buying in now. It's hard because, when you're a veteran of their stature, you don't like making mistakes. You get embarrassed but you've got to put that behind us and learn another position or multiple positions so that people can't just, ‘hey, he's lining up at the weakside position, we're going to double him.' We can't allow that to happen."

According to Arians, by moving Fitz around, it means that it creates more opportunities for him because he will be in different spots. It also should open things up for Andre Roberts, Michael Floyd and Rob Housler.

What is interesting is that moving Fitz around is nothing new. In fact, it was a point of emphasis in the Super Bowl, but apparently that was in the context of his position. He didn't have to learn three different positions on one play.

What is really smart about this is that it creates discomfort for the player. Discomfort will lead to improvement. It gives him a few more things to be engaged with.

It worked with Reggie Wayne last year.

I don't think there is anyone that doesn't think that this year will be a big bounce back year for him. The signs all point in that direction. He has an established quarterback in Carson Palmer. He will be in different spots. He is playing in an offense that is proven to get numbers.

So while it is uncomfortable for him now because he is having to adjust, it will have been a very smart move. Plus, as he gets later into his career, having that flexibility will be able to keep him from having a big dropoff in production.

Just one more thing to be excited about, even if it is just June.

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