Commentary

Larry Fitzgerald didn't get the memo

He's a steady counterpoint to wide receivers who reinforce the erratic diva image

Originally Published: February 17, 2012
By Ashley Fox | ESPN.com

Larry Fitzgerald doesn't get it.

He hasn't said or done anything on UStream all week. He hasn't ripped Roger Goodell for getting paid a salary commensurate with his job of running a multibillion-dollar business or complained about his own contract. He hasn't admitted losing nearly every penny he has earned and announced a desperation signing with a team in a football league few had ever heard of.

[+] EnlargeLarry Fitzgerald
Christopher Hanewinckel/US PresswireSulking is not in Larry Fitzgerald's repertoire.
No, Fitzgerald doesn't get it, because according to his Twitter feed, the Arizona Cardinals wide receiver is getting Zen in Chile. It is part of his annual offseason ritual of trying to better himself, to understand different cultures, to see things from other people's perspective. In 2009 he went on a USO mission to Kuwait and Iraq to visit with U.S. troops and then hopped to six other countries, including South Africa, with Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen. This year, it seems, Fitzgerald has started his post-Super Bowl travels in Chile. Where the journey leads, only he knows.

What a diva.

Someone needs to pull Fitzgerald aside and explain that this is not how a wide receiver in the NFL is supposed to behave. He isn't supposed to be generous and kind, inquisitive and sensitive, thoughtful and genuine. He is supposed to be singularly focused on himself, his body, his accomplishments, his Q rating and his wallet. Some would call these people narcissistic. Others would call them by name: Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, DeSean Jackson.

They are the anti-Fitzgeralds. How is that working out?

Let's review:

By his own admission, Owens has lost a substantial amount of his fortune because of what he said was irresponsibly trusting his financial people and not paying attention to league-sponsored seminars on how to avoid untrustworthy people. Owens did not play in 2011, despite a midseason workout attended by no one other than the media. In less than two weeks, he will debut as player-owner of the Allen Wranglers of the Indoor Football League, where presumably he will make more than the league average of $300 per game.

Owens wants back into the NFL. In other words, he wants to be Larry Fitzgerald.

Moss insists he has not squandered the money he earned during a 13-year NFL career. Despite leaving scorched earth in New England, Minnesota and Tennessee on his way out of the league in 2010, Moss now wants another shot in 2012. To hear Moss tell it on his various rambling UStream sessions (the most recent on Wednesday night sitting in front of a fish tank containing his pet piranha), Moss just wants to play for the love of the game.

In other words, Moss wants to be Larry Fitzgerald.

Jackson has kept a low profile recently, but he can't be happy about the recent news that Philadelphia intends to use the franchise tag to keep him from becoming a free agent next month. For two seasons, Jackson has been upset about his contract, which paid him less than $600,000 last season. While the franchise tag would mean Jackson would play 2012 under a one-year contract worth in the neighborhood of $10 million, Jackson wants a long-term deal with a sizable signing bonus.

[+] EnlargeDeSean Jackson
Eric Hartline/US PresswireDeSean Jackson's inconsistency and attitude have complicated his relationship with the Eagles.
The Eagles are unlikely to pay Jackson the money he seeks because, although he is a dynamic threat every time he touches the football, he has wreaked havoc with team chemistry the last two years. Jackson held out of training camp last year, got benched for missing a team meeting and got benched late in a game for dogging it.

Jackson wants to be Larry Fitzgerald, a man on his third contract -- this one worth $120 million -- with the team that drafted him in the first round in 2004. The Eagles know he is not.

Fitzgerald never dogs it. Jackson was sitting at home on Nov. 13 when Fitzgerald's Cardinals came to Philly. Arizona was 2-6 and down to backup quarterback John Skelton. The Cardinals had very little to play for, but Fitzgerald finished with seven catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns. On the game-winning touchdown drive, Fitzgerald stretched to make a 37-yard catch at the 1-yard line that led to Arizona's 21-17 win.

That loss, more than any other, cost Philadelphia a playoff berth. Had the Eagles won, the New York Giants never would have been in position to make a Super Bowl run. The Giants would not have made the playoffs, and the Eagles would have.

The next week at San Francisco, the Cardinals had a brutal day. Trailing 23-0 in the fourth quarter, Ken Whisenhunt benched Skelton in favor of journeyman Richard Bartel. On his second drive, Bartel found Fitzgerald in the end zone. Instead of doing his standard touchdown celebration of flipping the ball to an official in the end zone, Fitzgerald sprinted back to the line of scrimmage 23 yards away and put the ball in Bartel's gut.

Fitzgerald wanted Bartel to have a keepsake. It was his first career touchdown pass, and it very well could be his last.

The next week in St. Louis, the Cardinals were trying to run out the clock after a back-and-forth game against the Rams. After the two-minute warning, LaRod Stephens-Howling got a first down. All Arizona needed was for Skelton to take a knee. But Fitzgerald sprinted to the sideline to inform the offensive coaches that Beanie Wells was sitting on 214 rushing yards. The franchise record was 215. Didn't Wells deserve the record?

After a delay-of-game penalty on the Cardinals, Wells broke a 14-yard rush.

Asked after the game how he knew Wells was near the record, Fitzgerald said he monitored the video board, which showed the statistics. Asked how he knew what the Cardinals' franchise rushing record was, he said he had memorized all of the team records.

Think Owens, Moss or Jackson ever took the time to learn any team records other than the ones that pertained to them?

Earlier this week, Fitzgerald tweeted a picture of himself on Easter Island, a remote part of Chile. On Friday, according to a picture posted on his Twitter feed, he had moved on to a spot near Quito, Ecuador, where he stood over the equator, one foot in the Southern Hemisphere and one in the Northern Hemisphere.

"Breathtaking sight to see 4 sure," Fitzgerald tweeted.

Maybe he gets it after all.

Ashley Fox is an NFL columnist. Follow her on Twitter: @AshleyMFox.