Fitz on the fly

Third-year receiver Larry Fitzgerald burned the 49ers for two 100-yard games last year on his way to tying for the NFL lead and setting a new Arizona franchise record with 103 receptions. Here, Fitzgerald talks Cardinals and 49ers and discusses opening the 2006 season against the Niners in the new Cardinals Stadium.

Q: What was your reaction when you saw the new Cardinals Stadium finally completed?
Fitzgerald:
When you first see it coming off of the 101, it's a huge stadium and the first time I saw it I got goose bumps. I was just excited because we finally have our own stadium that we can call home.

Q: How is the atmosphere there and what are the differences between the new stadium and the old Sun Devil Stadium?
Fitzgerald:
Everybody in there is definitely pulling for the Cardinals. In past years teams like the Dallas Cowboys had fans that would travel to the games and it felt like a neutral site. This year, everybody in the stands are mostly Cardinals fans and it feels great.

Q: Does the new stadium offer your team any tangible new benefits?
Fitzgerald:
It definitely does. Like any good team, when they play at home and they have fans who are tailgating outside, and pulling for you, it gives you added momentum to go out there and give them something special. That's what we want to do.

Q: What has felt like having more opponents' fans at your game than Cardinals fans in the past?
Fitzgerald:
I think we are all professionals who have a job to do. We are out there to win football games no matter whom we are playing against or who are in the stands. It's definitely a lot nicer to have your fans in the stadium.

Q: Is there any differences in the new playing surface versus Sun Devil Stadium?
Fitzgerald:
No, I think the grass here is the same as Sun Devil Stadium. The grass at Sun Devil is one of the best surfaces to play on because it's so fast. It feels like you are running on a track and Cardinals Stadium has that same feel.

Q: How different is the offense now with the addition of running back Edgerrin James?
Fitzgerald:
Now with Edge, teams are going to have to respect the running game by putting an extra man in the box. That is going to leave the receivers and the tight ends with some single coverage and anytime you see that, it brightens your day a little bit. We know what Edge is going to bring to the table.

Q: Have you learned much from your wide receivers coach, Mike Wilson, who used to play for the 49ers?
Fitzgerald:
Yes, coach Wilson has a lot of insight in the game. He's won four Super Bowls and he's been around the best receiver who ever played the game. He's always telling us about Jerry Rice, John Taylor, and Dwight Clark and the things they did to be successful during those Super Bowl years. He also brings out some old tapes and shows us something's that Jerry Rice used to do. He's definitely been helpful with our progress.

Q: How much tape do you watch of the 1980s 49ers?
Fitzgerald:
We've seen a little bit. We've watched some one-on-ones, but I think we watch more situational stuff. Routes that Jerry Rice used to run, like slants, because we run the same types of stuff they did in the West Coast offense. It's very similar, but I think our package is a little bit broader than their packages were.

Q: So, are you still known as "Late Night Larry?"
Fitzgerald:
It all depends on what day it is. This week, I'm definitely going to stay and watch as much film as I can. We're just preparing for a team that we really haven't seen. In the preseason things are so bland, and you don't show all your packages, so you don't know what to expect from San Francisco. They are definitely a heck of a better football team than they were last year.

Q: Can you talk about your expectations of the San Francisco secondary and the last time you faced cornerback Shawntae Spencer, your former teammate at the University of Pittsburgh?
Fitzgerald:
We know they are going to be more improved than last year. They were really banged up last year when we faced them. I know they got cornerback Walt Harris in the off-season, and Shawntae is healthy again. I also know that safety Tony Parrish is healthy and safety Mike Adams has another year under his belt. Their core is now getting older, and has more experience. We know that their defensive line is a monster, since they beat us up pretty good last year down in Mexico. We know that we'll have our hands full with these guys, and we have to come out quick on all cylinders and play well.

Q: How much better can your receiving corps be this year with an improved running game to complement you?
Fitzgerald:
I don't think we will get as many opportunities down field, but the ones we will get will be more play-action. They will be in single coverage, so we won't have to make any tight catches in zone. I think it will help out, and the catches we get will be further downfield and give us something. Once you catch the ball, all you have to do is beat one man, and we can make plays down the field.

Q: Do you keep in contact with Spencer?
Fitzgerald:
No, he keeps changing his phone number, and I can't keep up with him. I've had the same phone number from high school. Guys get into the NFL and they want to change their numbers. It's hard to keep up with them.

Q: Is Shawntae big-timing you?
Fitzgerald:
Yeah, I think he is big-timing me a little bit. I'll have to talk to him about that on Sunday.

Q: Where does the rivalry between the 49ers and Cardinals rank at this point?
Fitzgerald:
I think it's on top. This is an organization that has had tremendous success over the years. They are where our organization wants to be. I think that when you beat them, it means something because you know what their history stands for.


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