Within an hour of news breaking that the Arizona Cardinals had agreed to terms for an eight-year contract with Larry Fitzgerald, the team was holding a press conference in their Tempe headquarters. Team president Michael Bidwill joined Fitzgerald on the podium and talked about the deal and the relationship between the star wide receiver and the Arizona Cardinals Football Club.
"We've come to terms on a new eight-year agreement, and we're pleased to be announcing that today," Mr. Bidwill announced, "We're excited about what the future holds not only for Larry and the Cardinals but to see him retire as a Cardinal some day, hopefully not any time soon."
For many years in Arizona sports, the Bidwill family, primarily Michael's father Bill, was considered a "bad" owner. The team consistently didn't spend enough to put a winning team on the field. For years Arizona football fans were treated to an inferior product played in an inferior stadium.
The last few years have changed all that. Since the opening of the new University of Phoenix Stadium, the hiring of coach Ken Whisenhunt and, yes, the drafting of Larry Fitzgerald in 2004, the team has started to take off. The 2009 Super Bowl teased what was possible and having tasted what the dream could be like, Michael has reinvigorated the once moribund franchise.
Larry Fitzgerald's passion for and commitment to the Bidwills is just a sign of how far things have come.
"I just want to thank the Bidwill family how they've taken me in over the years. I feel like I'm one of the family," Fitzgerald said.
And who wouldn't want Larry Fitzgerald as part of their family? He was visibly emotional and obviously uncomfortable on the podium talking about this subject. He confirmed why.
"I'm really uncomfortable up here talking about this type of thing to be honest with you. I look over here to the right (at the posters on the wall in the media room) and I see guys like Kurt (Warner), Adrian Wilson, myself up here on the podium right before we went to the Super Bowl and that's what I want to be on the podium for coming soon. That's what I signed up for and I know that's what the Bidwill family expects. I'm going to do my best to get us back there again."
Fitzgerald was asked if he was waiting to sign an extension to see what kind of moves the Cardinals made in free agency to improve the team. Fitz gave an answer that didn't ring completely...candid.
"No, I'm not one to try to hold a hammer over anybody's head or anything like that. This is Mr. Bidwill's team. He's going to do everything he can to make this organization go and we've seen that over the last couple of years. The activity in free agency this year isn't something I've seen since I've been here and I think that's a sign of things to come. We can continue to be aggressive making this team better."
He wasn't holding a "hammer" but on several occasions including in this press conference pointed out how aggressive the team was in this free agency. You can't blame him for wanting the Cardinals to spend money and get better. If he used the leverage he had, Cards fans should thank him.
As for the deal itself, Mr. Bidwill said the way it was structured wouldn't hamper the team's ability to sign other good players, "We're excited that Larry was able to work with us and allow us to structure this in a way that allows it to be very positive for him but also very positive for the team so that we can continue to build this team. We've got a shared commitment to winning."
On a side note, Larry arrived to the press conference with his brother and friend, singer Jordin Sparks. Larry said they were eating at a local sushi restaurant, Ra, when they got the call to come over for the press conference.
Fitzgerald also brought his cleats, he explained why, "When you sign and eight-year deal when you come to the bosses office I had to feel like I was doing something. If they wanted me to go out and run some routes today, I was ready to."