Carol Fitzgerald passed away in 2003 after battling breast cancer and since then her husband, local sportswriter, Larry Sr., and their two sons, Larry Jr. and Marcus, have worked to honor her memory. That is why athletes, business leaders and others gathered on Friday night for the Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Fund Benefit at the Metropolitan Ballroom in Golden Valley.
The number of grant recipients from the fund continues to grow each year and the event has become an impressive one. Among those in attendance were Vikings Pat Williams, Tyrell Johnson and Ray Edwards. Singer Jordin Sparks also was there. Both Larry Sr. and Larry Jr., the star wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals, talked about what this means to them and we'll get to that in our second item. But first a bit of news.
Edwards, who is a restricted free agent, said he does not plan to sign the tender offer extended to him by the Vikings until he has to and will skip the offseason workout program and practices at Winter Park. Vikings veterans are due to begin their offseason program Monday in Eden Prairie. The Vikings gave Edwards the first-round tender offer of $2.5 million, instead of placing the first- and third-round tender of $3.2 million on him. But that's not why Edwards is upset.
His primary issue remains the fact that because no new Collective Bargaining Agreement has been reached, he was a restricted free agent instead of unrestricted this offseason. Edwards has played four seasons and in the past would have been unrestricted, but this year players needed six years of service instead of four.
"My frustration is that I signed a four-year contract, I didn’t sign a six-year contract," Edwards said. "There’s nothing you can really do about it, so I’m just waiting my time, see what I can do to better my situation. I do need to take care of myself and my family. Don’t get me wrong, we definitely get paid a nice amount of money but let’s be fair here. So that’s my thing about the whole situation.”
"I'm not mad at the team, not at all. They gave me a chance to live my childhood dream of playing in the NFL, so I can't really be mad at them. In part they can do what's right on their end. But it's a business decision. They are doing their best to [make] the business decision that they feel is best so we'll see where that goes."
Actually, it's pretty clear where this is headed. Next Thursday marks the final day that restricted free agents can sign an offer sheet with another team. After that, Edwards' rights will belong solely to the Vikings. However, that doesn't mean he has to sign the offer the Vikings extended to him. That won't need to be signed until June 15. It's at that point the Vikings can drop their tender offer to 110 percent of Edwards' $1.01 million base salary from last year.
There remains an outside chance another team could make Edwards an offer, which would mean the Vikings could match it or decline the opportunity and get another first-round draft pick. The window on that happening, however, is closing quickly and some of the likely candidates appear to have filled their needs at defensive end.
The Saints signed former Bear Alex Brown to a two-year, $6 million deal and the Eagles acquired Darryl Tapp from the Seahawks. Still, Edwards thinks he might get a late offer. “I hope so," he said. "I think it’s a strong possibility. We still have a couple of days left so hopefully something happens and we can make a move.”
Edwards, who led the NFL with four sacks in the playoffs last season after finishing second on the Vikings with 8.5 during the regular season, said there have been no discussions of a long-term deal with Minnesota. In fact, there really have been no discussions between Edwards and team officials at all.
"I’m not talking to any of those guys," he said. "If they want to talk to me they talk to my agent. For the simple fact, we want to get the deal done. I worked my four years here, the length of my contract, so we just want to get our market share.”
Although he won't be working out at Winter Park, that doesn't mean Edwards is going to be sitting on his couch. He will continue to box to stay in shape and said his agent, Doug Hendrickson, has talked to Fox NFL information man Jay Glazer about taking part in his training program. Glazer is heavily involved in mixed martial arts. "I haven’t decided yet on that," Edwards said.
Edwards said he was a "little bit surprised" Minnesota did not place the highest tender offer on him before adding, "the Vikings are going to do what they want to do. Maybe they want me here, but maybe not. We’ll see. Maybe they [come] away with a first-round draft pick for me. So be it.”
Asked if he wants to remain with the Vikings, Edwards said: “I want to get paid what’s fair. If it’s here or somewhere else."
KEEPING HER MEMORY ALIVE
A silent auction that included Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson autographed footballs, basketball shoes worn by Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns, a baseball autographed by Justin Morneau of the Twins and numerous items from Larry Fitzgerald Jr., highlighted the silent auction held as part of the Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Fund Benefit.
A spokesman said grant recipients from the fund received $120,000 total this year, up from $45,000 last year. The money went to breast cancer prevention and support; education of urban youth; and HIV/AIDS prevention and support.
"There are so many people that have reached out in this community to help us and keep my wife's memory alive," Larry Fitzgerald Sr. said, adding he is excited about the growth of the event.
"A lot of people are sick, a lot of people need to be educated and the way to help them is to give and show them the way, Fitzgerald said. "Tonight we're giving out more money than we've ever done before and next year we want to try to double that."
Said Larry Jr.: "My mom did a lot of things for this community and we wanted to honor her by continuing to try to help the people she felt good about."
Fitzgerald Jr. said he carries a picture of his mom in his wallet and that her voice is still on the answering machine at home. "She's in our hearts and she's always going to be there," he said.
CHILDRESS, ROGERS TO SEE TEBOW
Vikings coach Brad Childress and quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers will watch former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow on Saturday in a private workout.
“I got a chance to talk to [Tebow] a little bit in Indianapolis [at the February scouting combine],” Childress told the Gainesville (Fla.) Sun. “I have a lot of coaching friends around here that I talk to and I got a chance to watch him darn near every Saturday last year.”
Childress was in Gainesville on Friday to speak at the annual high school coaches' clinic but as we reported on Thursday he also has plans to watch several former Gators today who have a chance to be taken in this month's draft.
“This is more about me trying to figure out a little more about some of their guys coming out this year than me looking at the current team,” Childress said. “…These guys are all juniors and sophomores and such. The guys I'm more interested are going to be out in a few weeks [in the NFL Draft].”
-- Fitzgerald Jr. plans to continue having other NFL players come into town this summer to work out with him, most likely on the University of Minnesota campus. Those work outs will start after the July 4 weekend. Fitzgerald said a lot of players from around the league came up to him after games last season to see if they could get involved in his work outs. Last summer, several NFL players (Sidney Rice, Greg Jennings and Brandon Marshall among them) and former stars (Jerry Rice and Cris Carter) trained with Fitzgerald. "We'll probably have double the turnout that we had last year," he said.
-- Fitzgerald Jr. said he will be at the Twins' home opener Monday at Target Field.