The Arizona Cardinals are saying there’s little doubt former Holy Angels standout Larry Fitzgerald Jr. will play against the Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday. He had an awkward fall in the second quarter last week in the Cardinals’ 23-20 victory over the 49ers and reportedly injured his knee, but he returned and finished with 12 receptions for 133 yards.
“I’d be shocked if he misses a game,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Monday. He also said Fitzgerald had an MRI, but didn’t specify for what.
Fitzgerald, who is one of the greatest athletes Minnesota has ever produced and a sure first-ballot Hall of Famer, has many exceptional qualities, but one of the best is durability. In his 13-year career, the former Vikings ball boy has missed only six games. And in seven previous games against the Vikings, Fitzgerald has 44 catches for 610 yards and one touchdown.
At 33, Fitzgerald remains as consistent as ever. He’s on pace for 1,221 receiving yards, which would be his fifth-best season total, and his five receiving touchdowns lead Cardinals receivers.
Last Sunday, he moved into sixth in NFL career receptions with 1,086, and could surpass Tim Brown (1,094) for fifth against the Vikings. Fourth on the list and within reach this season is Hall of Famer Cris Carter (1,101), a mentor of Fitzgerald’s when Carter played with the Vikings.
Fitzgerald also is 11th on the career receiving yards list with 14,053, and it’s reasonable to think he could move up to seventh by the end of the season.
While there has long been rumors Fitzgerald would come to the Vikings in free agency, he’s never wanted to leave Arizona and it looks like he’ll finish his career there. He’s signed for $11 million in 2017.
During the playoffs last season, the Wall Street Journal ran a story about how Fitzgerald is not only one of the best receivers to ever play, but also one of the nicest. And while that’s a tremendous compliment to Fitzgerald, it can be difficult for defensive backs, as Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn told the Journal.
“I cannot take the bait,” Munnerlyn said. “I’ve got to yell and get angry, I’ve got to get on him. I can’t let him be so nice that I can’t get into game mode.”
Munnerlyn said he’s always trying to generate energy and emotion before the game, but it’s harder to do against Fitzgerald.
“All of the sudden, I’ve got a guy coming up to me saying: ‘Hey, Captain, I see you, you’re doing so well this year, keep it up!’ ” Munnerlyn said. “That’s Fitz. He’s asking how you’re doing, how your family is.”
The defensive backfield will need to be at its best as they try to help the Vikings out of a four-loss tailspin. The Cardinals are 2-5 against the Vikings in Fitzgerald’s career.
He will once again have his father, Larry Sr., in the press box in his longtime role as a sportswriter for the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, as well as his brother, Marcus.
How do you figure out the Timberwolves? The team has been so good in stretches but just miserable in the third quarter, and the stats are inexplicable.
In the first quarter, the Timberwolves have the third-best plus/minus for points scored in the NBA at plus-4.7. They trail the Clippers (plus-7.7) and the Cavaliers (plus-5.8), two of the best teams in the league. They lead the league in scoring in the first quarter at 31.6 points and lead the league in shooting in the first quarter with a 53.5 field-goal percentage.
In the second quarter, the Timberwolves have the second-best plus/minus in the NBA at plus-5.1. They trail only the Clippers (plus-5.7). They are second in the league in scoring in the second quarter at 30.1, trailing only the Warriors, who are the NBA title favorites, and they are tied for fourth in shooting in the second quarter with a 50.9 field-goal percentage.
In the third quarter, the Wolves are dead last in plus/minus at minus-9.1. They are last in points scored at 19.5 and last in shooting percentage at 34.2.
But it’s not as simple as the Wolves folding in the second half, because they don’t. In the fourth quarter, the Timberwolves are 12th in the league in plus/minus at plus-1.1. They are ninth in scoring at 26.7 and 14th in field-goal percentage at 43.6.
There’s a lot of promise in these Timberwolves but that third-quarter drop-off has made for an awful start to the season at 3-7. They will play on TNT on Thursday against Philadelphia, their first of 10 nationally televised games on either TNT or ESPN.
• Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said after Tuesday’s 115-108 loss to Charlotte that youth cannot be an excuse, even on a team that starts three 21-year-old players such as the Wolves. “We could use youth as an excuse forever, your opponent doesn’t care that you’re young,” he said. … Andrew Wiggins scored 29 points against the Hornets, his fifth consecutive game with 22 or more. He’s averaging 32.6 points during that stretch.
• I lost my brother Saul Hartman, 89, on Tuesday. He was the smartest one of the family, served in World War II and was the most lovable. He had tons of friends because of his great character, kindness and personality.
• Also passing away recently was one of the Gophers’ biggest boosters, Phil McElroy, who played wide receiver for the Gophers in the 1950s under Wes Fesler. He was 83.
• The Twins have not decided whether to re-sign catcher Kurt Suzuki while they look for a better option behind the plate. … Twins shortstop prospect Nick Gordon is having a tremendous season in the Arizona Fall League. He is fourth in batting (.351) with four doubles, two triples, five stolen bases, six RBI and 15 runs scored in 20 games. Baseball America wrote this about him Monday: “While the lithe Gordon has yet to develop over-the-fence, he’s making consistent hard contact in the AFL and has flashed gap power. He has good instincts and aptitude and his plus arm strength is his best tool.”
• Gophers football coach Tracy Claeys on his seniors’ final home game Saturday against Northwestern. “When they got here, everything wasn’t all rosy and going the right direction. The culture had to change and they were a big part of that. … They have won 29 games, which is tied for the third most of any senior class since 1937.”
• Luke Olson, a 2008 Wayzata and 2012 University of Minnesota grad, is in his third year coaching defensive backs for Doane University in Crete, Neb., which made the NAIA playoffs. Olson is also their recruiting coordinator.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org