Fitzgerald optimistic but says not his call

Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald wants to play in Atlanta this week, but it's not his call.

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald said it's "highly likely" he will be able to play Sunday against Atlanta, then backtracked and said it's not his call.

The eight-time Pro Bowl wide receiver has not practiced for two weeks after spraining his left knee in a victory over Detroit. He sat out last week's loss at Seattle, snapping a streak of 110 consecutive games played.

It was just the fifth game he has missed in his 10-plus NFL seasons. Fitzgerald, who holds virtually every Cardinals receiving record, has missed consecutive games only once, when a hamstring injury sidelined him for three games in a row in 2006.

"I can't even remember the last time I missed a game before that," he said on Thursday. "I didn't know what the routine was, what I was supposed to do. It was just really awkward, to be there but not being able to do anything to help your team. That was frustrating."

The Cardinals lost at Seattle 19-3, snapping a six-game winning streak. Arizona has not scored a touchdown in seven quarters.

Even after missing a game, Fitzgerald leads the team in receptions (46) and yards receiving (658).

'Yeah, we miss him because he is one of our veteran leaders," offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said after Thursday's practice, "but at the end of the day the philosophy is 'next man up.' If he's there this weekend, he is. If he's not, it's still next man up. We've got to make plays no matter who's out there. We've got to do a better job."

Fitzgerald said he only wants to play if he is healthy enough to make a difference.

"I just want to make sure I'm not doing anything to set myself back," he said, "and when I come back I'm strong and I can finish hopefully going into February. That's the goal."

He said he knew last week that he wasn't healthy enough to play.

"I don't want to mess up (quarterback) Drew (Stanton). I don't want to mess up that trust," Fitzgerald said. "He trusts me and I don't ever want to break that. If I can go, I'm out there, and if I can go at full speed. And if I'm iffy and I'm feeling I can't do it to the best of my ability and I'm not as good as the guy who's going to come in and take my place, then that's selfish. You've got to be aware of that."

He indicated he could play despite missing so much practice time.

"I'm in every single meeting," Fitzgerald said. "Everything that Mike Floyd and Smoky (John Brown) and Juron (Brown), everything that they're doing, I'm doing the exact same thing besides running the routes in practice. ... There's nothing in the mental preparation that is any different from what I've always done."

If he does play, he would wear a brace.

"It's not restrictive too much at all," Fitzgerald said. "It's just a little cumbersome but it's protection. That's really what it's about. You just want to make sure that you're out there and can do everything that you're capable of doing and if you do take a hit it's not going to be something catastrophic."

Of course, Goodwin would prefer to have Fitzgerald for defenses to worry about.

"You worry about him because he's still Larry Fitzgerald, a future Hall of Famer, a guy that's caught a lot of balls, caught a lot of touchdowns," Goodwin said. "It makes a lot of difference having him out there, but for us it can't be a distraction if he's not. Where we're trying to go, everybody's got to play."


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