|With his good friend Green gone, Fitzgerald zeroing in on details|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 15 August 2007 13:31|
``My entire life I've been able to get away with not doing things technique properly,'' he said. ``Sometimes it comes and gets me, but most of the time I'm able to get by with it. But I don't want to rely on that. I want to beat guys with good technique. That will make my life and my quarterback's life a lot easier.''
With the Arizona Cardinals no longer coached by close family friend Dennis Green, Fitzgerald is being pushed hard by the new staff, and he is honing in on the little things that he sometimes ignored in the past. The result has been an outstanding training camp.
``I've gotten increasingly better every year, but I think this year, this offseason, I've really addressed it,'' the wide receiver said after a workout Wednesday. ``I'm quicker. My weight's down. I'm a lot stronger and I have a lot better understanding of the concepts we're doing out there, a lot better understanding of my role on this team.''
Fitzgerald's relationship with Green goes back to childhood. Fitzgerald's father and the coach are good friends, and he was a ball boy with the Minnesota Vikings when Green coached there. One of the first things Green did as Arizona coach was push for the selection of Fitzgerald as the third pick overall in the 2004 draft.
In his second season, at age 22, Fitzgerald made the Pro Bowl after catching 103 passes for 1,049 yards. Anquan Boldin caught 102 for 1,402 yards, marking only the third time NFL teammates had surpassed 1,400 yards receiving.
But Green couldn't turn the Cardinals into winners, and he was fired a day after his 2006 team finished 5-11. For the first time, Fitzgerald is facing an NFL season without Green.
``We knew that Coach Green and Larry were very close and we knew what went into that,'' quarterback Kurt Warner said.
n maybe you were otherwise.''
Fitzgerald remains a staunch supporter of Green.
``My friendship and my love for Coach Green is not going to change regardless of whether he's my head coach or he's the commentator on ESPN or if he's not doing anything,'' he said. ``I'm still going to have the same admiration and respect as I would have if he was my head coach.''
But Fitzgerald has responded well to the pressure from the new coaches.
``I'm still getting the same looks, I'm still getting the opportunities that I had before,'' he said, ``but I just think me as a player that I've matured and I understand being a good player on a bad team is not good enough, being a good player on a great team is what I want to be.''
New head coach Ken Whisenhunt has moved Fitzgerald from the ``X'' receiver to the ``Z'' receiver, a spot that presents more of a mental challenge.
``There's going to be more things for him to do, but there are also going to be more opportunities for him,'' Whisenhunt said.
Whisenhunt wants Fitzgerald to work on ``the little details,'' including route running, the depth of routes and running after the catch.
``You know he can catch the football, that's been proven,'' Whisenhunt said, ``but he can make better separation and make bigger plays. We've had some of those things show up on the practice field.''
Fitzgerald, who turns 24 in two weeks, uncharacteristically dropped a couple of passes in last weekend's preseason opener at Oakland. He has caught just about everything that's been thrown his way in camp, and quarterback Matt Leinart has noted the change.
``He's already really, really good,'' Leinart said, ``but if he fine-tunes some of those little things, he's going to be unstoppable.''