Larry Fitzgerald, greeting San Francisco quarterback Blaine Gabbert after Sunday’s game, has 992 yards this season.
Larry Fitzgerald, grabbing a pass against San Francisco, needs eight more catches to hit 1,000 in his career.
TEMPE — Statistically, at least, Larry Fitzgerald’s 12th NFL season is his best.
As he piles up the numbers, he approaches more career milestones that push his name up with some of the game’s best.
The 32-year-old Arizona Cardinals receiver needs eight catches to have 1,000 for his career. Another 56 yards receiving, and he passes Hall of Famer Andre Reed into 15th place on the career list.
With an eight-yard catch, he would hit 1,000 yards receiving in a season for the seventh time in his career, but first since 2011.
And there is still a month to go.
As usual, Fitzgerald brushes aside his career numbers.
“It’s not time to start smelling the roses now,” he said after Thursday’s practice. “We’re in the midst of something special here. Every single week is a work in progress to try to help ourselves reach our goals. So for individuals to start looking at personal things, this is not the time for that.
“Ten years from now, when we’re sitting at the bar together, we can talk about it. But right now, it’s not the time to reflect.”
Fitzgerald is on pace to pass his single-season bests in receptions (103 set in 2005, his second NFL season) and yards receiving (1,431 at the end of Kurt Warner’s passes in the Super Bowl season of 2008).
It would be his fifth season of at least 1,400 yards receiving. Only Jerry Rice has more with six.
But Fitzgerald said this year’s numbers don’t mean that he’s a better receiver than he was back then. He’s playing a different position. When coach Bruce Arians took over in 2013, he moved Fitzgerald from wideout to the slot.
“I played a much different role early in my career — outside the numbers,” Fitzgerald said. “Now I’m inside. It’s much easier to get catches inside because you’re so much closer to the quarterback. The distance is much smaller, so it’s much easier to get them. It’s just the game’s a little faster, but football is football — be in the right place, catch the football, and do what you’re asked to do. It kind of works like that.”
It’s rough work. His chores include blocking some big, tough players. Quarterback Carson Palmer has called Fitzgerald “the best blocking wide receiver in the league.”
The position change didn’t drive him out of Arizona, which at 9-2 has the second-best record in the NFC this season. Last offseason, he signed a two-year, $22 million contract, all of it guaranteed. He could spend his entire career with one team.
Offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said Fitzgerald consistently works hard.
“He always wants to be accountable to his teammates, accountable to himself,” Goodwin said. “He works his butt off. No matter what we ask him to do, he’s doing it and he’s doing it at a high level.”
In their third season together, Palmer and Fitzgerald are comfortable in Arians’ intricate system.
“I’ve always felt like I’ve had a great rapport with Carson since Day One” Fitzgerald said. “I mean, you don’t really need much work with a guy that’s that accurate and has that much experience. You just need to be where you’re supposed to be and he has to trust you as opposed to you trusting him, because he’s very accurate and he knows what he’s doing.”
After some leaner years, Fitzgerald finds his name among the best in the NFL again. He is third in the league in receptions with 83 and fifth in yards receiving with 992.
He has caught a pass in 174 consecutive games, by far the longest active streak in the NFL, and he has far surpassed the statistics he accumulated all of last season.