With a week off between the NFL's conference championship games and the Super Bowl, attention turns to the Pro Bowl. For the most part, Pro Bowl news centers around nothing more than who is in and who is out. The outcome never matters; players' performances in the game never matter either. It is about getting on the roster and then finding a way to get off it!
Larry Fitzgerald is the latest NFL star to back out of the 2017 Pro Bowl, citing an injury, though the nature of said injury remains undisclosed. Doug Baldwin was tabbed as his NFC replacement for the game, but Fitzgerald's absence from the game opens up more questions than most.
First, since there was no announcement of an official injury, the reaction is bound to be suspicious. Is he making this up to get out of the commitment? For most players, that would be the end of it. However, there are also suspicions that the future Hall of Fame wide receiver may be calling it a career.
In a radio interview with Jim Gray near the end of the regular season, Fitzgerald didn't say he was going to retire in the offseason, but he also left the door open for that possibility. "I wouldn’t say that I’m contemplating [retirement] right now, but I’m uncertain what I’m going to do moving forward." Fitzgerald was spotted in LA last week where reporters caught up to him after attending a Clippers game. This added to the conspiracy theories is that Fitzgerald has gone on to describe his future retirement. He said he will not participate in a retirement tour, but instead go the Tim Duncan route when he leaves. This also fits into a scenario in which he has played his last game. There will be no retirement tour, but even if the team wanted one, there are no more games left!
That line of thinking may be a bit of a stretch, though. After all, Fitzgerald still has a lot left to offer. He had another great season in 2016, leading the league with 107 receptions. He topped 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season and the eighth time of his career. He also went over 100 career receiving touchdowns this season and capped it all off by being named a finalist for one of the better awards in the sport: the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award.
2017 is the final guaranteed year of Fitz's contract. He is owed $11 million, with over $15 million counting against the cap and $9 million of that being dead money for the Cardinals. If he was going to retire, it would certainly help Arizona's checkbook, not that the team would be happy to lose him.
Fitzgerald has said a number of interesting things about his future. His decision to back out of the Pro Bowl is also in that same vein. However, nothing is real evidence of him leaving football. If anything, skipping the Pro Bowl is proof that he has a healthy 2017 on his mind. Knowing Larry, he will want to make one more run at the Super Bowl after the ups and downs of the last two seasons.