Minnesotans will get to see a unique situation when the Arizona Cardinals play the Vikings on Saturday, because the team features three offensive players who all played their high school football in Minnesota: wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald Jr. of Holy Angels and Michael Floyd of Cretin-Derham Hall, and tight end John Carlson, who played at Litchfield and signed with the Cardinals after two tough seasons with the Vikings.
Fitzgerald is the longest-tenured wide receiver with the team, after being drafted by the Cardinals with the third overall pick in the 2004 draft. He has had amazing success in Arizona: eight Pro Bowls, a first-team All-Pro in 2008, and second-team All-Pro in 2009 and 2011. He also reached the Super Bowl in 2008 and signed an eight-year contract extension in 2011 for $120 million.
Last season, Fitzgerald became the youngest receiver to reach 11,000 receiving yards at 30 years and 85 days, surpassing former Vikings star Randy Moss. Fitzgerald finished the season with 82 receptions for 954 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Floyd is entering his third NFL season after having a breakout year in 2013 with 65 receptions for 1,041 yards and five touchdowns. He caught 45 passes for 562 yards and two scores in his rookie season. Floyd, like Fitzgerald, was a first-round selection by the Cardinals, taken 13th overall in 2012 out of Notre Dame.
Floyd still has two years left on his four-year, $9.972 million rookie contract he signed in 2012 and will be a free agent in 2016.
Carlson, like Floyd, attended Notre Dame, and he joined Arizona after a couple of injury-plagued seasons with his hometown Vikings. In 2012, he grabbed only eight receptions for 43 yards with the Vikings, but last year he caught 32 passes for 344 yards and a touchdown.
The Cardinals said they are hoping that Carlson can keep that form and even return to his standout days with the Seattle Seahawks. One of the big concerns though for Carlson is concussion issues, but he hopes to put all of that behind him.
“I did everything I could to be as healthy as I could be over the course of the offseason,” Carlson told the Cardinals website. “As a football player, I’m concerned about my health. As a husband and father, I’m conscious of the risks associated with football, but I feel very confident in the things I did over the course of the offseason to get as healthy as I can be. I feel great right now, so I’m not concerned. Injuries happen in football, whether things have happened in the past or not.”
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said the team weighed concerns over Carlson’s injury history against his talent when they signed him to a two-year, $4.65 million deal.
“His résumé speaks for itself,” Arians told the team’s website. “It’s just a matter of staying healthy.”
In Arizona’s first preseason game, a 32-0 victory over the Houston Texans, Fitzgerald was the only one to catch a pass out of the three Minnesotans, grabbing two receptions for 11 yards and a touchdown.
The receiver that the Vikings might have to keep an eye on is rookie John Brown, who had five receptions for 87 yards.
The third-round pick out of Division II Pittsburg State, where Gophers coach Jerry Kill was once the coach, is drawing great reviews from Arizona General Manager Steve Keim.
“I haven’t seen a rookie come in and do what he’s done — and it’s early still — since Anquan Boldin,” Keim told ESPN. “This guy came through the first day, and being from Pittsburg State, has uncanny instincts, unbelievable understanding of route concepts, leverage, being in the right spot at the right time.”
While the Vikings defense didn’t face a tough offensive collection in the Raiders, they will get a good test against the Cardinals this weekend.
Winter Park upgrade
Now that the new Vikings stadium is a reality, don’t be surprised if the Wilf family starts planning a modernized version of Winter Park, or simply builds a new practice facility.
And the big wigs in town who know what is going on remain certain that U.S. Bank will purchase the naming rights on the stadium.
• Looking at another rookie quarterback besides Teddy Bridgewater playing Saturday night at TCF Bank Stadium, Logan Thomas, Arizona’s fourth-round draft choice from Virginia Tech, completed 11 of 12 for 113 yards and a touchdown in the Cardinals’ 32-0 blanking of Houston. He likely will get some action against the Vikings.
• Former Vikings running back Toby Gerhart, the longtime backup to Adrian Peterson before this season, is back at practice with the Jacksonville Jaguars after missing two weeks because of a hip flexor injury. Gerhart is expect to be the Jaguars starter this year.
• Going into Wednesday’s games former Twins slugger Justin Morneau was second in the National League batting race with a .324 average, trailing only his Colorado teammate Troy Tulowitzki, who was at .340. At sixth in the NL is another former Twins player in Ben Revere, who was hitting .308 for Philadelphia.
• Former Rochester Century pitcher Mitch Brown was named the Cleveland Indians minor league pitcher of the week after posting 12 shutout innings with 10 strikeouts in two starts. Brown is 5-2 with a 2.84 ERA and 56 strikeouts over 57 innings over this past 10 starts — included in those stellar numbers is back-to-back starts where he gave up 13 earned runs over 10⅔ innings. In eight of his past 10 starts, he has given up two runs or fewer, including four scoreless starts.
• Former Gophers defensive back Troy Stoudermire made his debut with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Canadian Football League this week and had three punt returns for 119 yards, including a 61-yarder.
• It was a tough break for Toronto Blue Jays reliever Neil Wagner, a Minneapolis native and former Eden Prairie High School athlete. He will need to have elbow ligament replacement surgery, to be performed Tuesday by Dr. James Andrews. Wagner, 30, made his major league debut with the Oakland Athletics in 2011 at age 27 and has made 52 big-league appearances, including 10 this season with the Blue Jays.
• Former Twins starter Scott Baker won his first game since 2011 when the Rangers defeated the Rays 3-2 in 14 innings Tuesday. Baker, who has returned from Tommy John surgery, has been working mostly in long relief this year but had an unsightly stat going into Tuesday’s game: Texas was 0-20 in the first 20 games Baker pitched in. “I’m very happy, obviously,” said Baker after the victory. “At the same time, it’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time sometimes, and I think that was the case tonight.”
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40, 8:40 and 9:20 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org