Larry Fitzgerald’s activation off the COVID-19 reserve list on Tuesday couldn’t have come at a better time for the scuffling Arizona Cardinals.
Losers of three straight and four of five, Arizona is searching for answers.
Internally, the Cardinals do not feel their problems are schematic. And so in keeping their collective heads together as they attempt to cut down on penalties, poor execution and other self-inflicted mistakes, having a 17-year pro and future Hall of Famer back on the practice field Wednesday sure couldn’t hurt.
“First of all, I think it’s huge to have him back out there, that feeling of comfort knowing he’s out there, the leadership he brings,” quarterback Kyler Murray said of Fitzgerald. “I’m definitely glad to have him back out there.”
Fitzgerald missed the last two games, losses to the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams, after reportedly testing positive for coronavirus on Thanksgiving.
He was back on the practice field Wednesday, though it remains to be seen if he will be able to hit the ground running and play Sunday at the New York Giants considering he has not practiced in nearly two weeks.
His COVID-19-caused absence snapped a 94-game streak of consecutive starts.
Whether Arizona’s results of late are significantly related to the 37-year-old receiver missing or not, Fitzgerald matters to a passing attack that has slowed to a crawl over his absence. Fitzgerald’s 43 catches for 336 yards this season still sit second- and third-most on the team, respectively.
Murray has thrown for 170 and 173 yards in the past two games, with leading receiver DeAndre Hopkins managing 52 and 55 yards in those outings.
After that, it’s been a struggle for the other receivers in the rotation: Christian Kirk (21 yards, four catches), Andy Isabella (40 yards, six catches) and KeeSean Johnson (31 yards, five catches).
Maybe Fitzgerald will bring a little more stability to the passing attack. At the least, the Cardinals can probably better than ever appreciate his presence.
“Obviously having him back just does a lot for the locker room,” said tight end Dan Arnold, who led Arizona with 61 receiving yards last week. “Having a leader like that, kind of coming back from these couple of weeks, just having a voice to kind of calm down everything and keep us in one straight line, I think that will definitely be a good thing to have again.”
And by the way, while Fitzgerald’s streak of consecutive starts was snapped at the hands of the coronavirus, he can continue extending his second-best NFL mark of consecutive starts with a catch. That will reach 254 if he records a reception the next time he starts.