first_imgArizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald at team OTAs, Tuesday, May 30, 2017 in Tempe, Ariz. (Photo: Adam Green/Arizona Sports) Top Stories Even so, Fitzgerald said the locker room is a place like any other in life: it requires relationship management. During the 2009 season, teammate Chike Okeafor was griping out loud, and well within earshot of reporters, about the four-year, $40 million contract extension Fitzgerald had signed before the 2008 season.“You always have to manage,” Fitzgerald said. “Look around this locker room; around the National Football League. We were all all-state performers and MVPs of our teams and division player of the years. We all come from storied backgrounds and so you get that many guys who are used to having success, there’s going to be some rubbing, there’s going to be some heads bumping. You just have to understand it’s about the team and it’s about making each other better without causing any friction.”Fitzgerald has come to enjoy that aspect as much as any part of his job. He is always ribbing or chatting with teammates, and he is so comfortable around media that he hijacked an interview with Jaron Brown last week to inject some humor.“I think I enjoy the relationship aspect of it more than I did,” he said. “I really like seeing the young guys working and having success and seeing their hard work pay off for them. I would definitely say I like being a teammate. That’s fun for me.” Former Cardinals kicker Phil Dawson retires 0 Comments   Share   There was no formality to this gathering, no check of his hair or clothing or teeth. Instead, Fitz hopped up on a countertop in the middle of the locker room, feet dangling like a kid, while a semi-circle of reporters and cameramen swelled around him.It’s a scene nobody would have witnessed in Fitzgerald’s rookie season. He was reluctant to talk to reporters then. It wasn’t that Fitzgerald was timid, as some have suggested. He was simply being respectful.“I’ve never been one to be unsure of myself, but when you come into the league at 20 years old and you make millions of dollars, there’s going to be resentment there,” he said. “There is going to be animosity a lot of times. I think the fastest way to bring that down is to show them that you can play and you want to work; you want to be a part of the team.”“Just from being a youngster, being a ball boy for the Vikings, I saw it was usually better when the rookies just shut their mouths and did their jobs. If you start talking to the media as a young guy, a lot of the veterans look at that and think ‘oh, he thinks he’s this.’ I just wanted to be quiet and keep working. Once I showed them I could play and they respected me, then I could be myself.” Derrick Hall satisfied with D-backs’ buying and sellingcenter_img It’s hard to fully believe a pro athlete when they say they don’t care about stats, accolades or money any more, but Fitzgerald brings a unique perspective to the table. Aside from the maturity his two sons have demanded from him, Fitzgerald’s famous travels have provided a broader perspective on his own life and the individual-centric American approach.“When you first get into the league, I just wanted to get to a Pro Bowl. Everything is personal,” he said. “When you’re young, you have to establish yourself and then as you get older, once you have established yourself, individual accolades and statistics and things like that don’t really matter to you any more.“Winning a championship puts me in a completely different stratosphere. I know I have to go out and perform to help my team win but it’s not how many catches or how many yards. It doesn’t matter at this point any more.”It is all the more urgent for Fitzgerald, who turns 34 in August, to check that final box as he enters another season that could be his last, playing on an expiring contract.“Look at Carson [Palmer] and guys like Tom Brady and all the older guys. How much more money can we make? How many more touchdowns can they throw?” he said. “It’s not going to change much of anything with how people look at them. Winning is all that matters at this point. That’s it.” The 5: Takeaways from the Coyotes’ introduction of Alex Meruelo Grace expects Greinke trade to have emotional impact TEMPE, Ariz. — It’s easy to feel comfortable sitting in Larry Fitzgerald’s skin. He is a Valley icon whose name is synonymous with the Cardinals organization. He is a multi-millionaire. If he never catches another NFL pass, his place at the Pro Football Hall of Fame is assured, and he is beloved by a fan base, a city and truth be told, much of the local media.Maybe that’s why reporters had given Fitzgerald a hall pass on interviews through most of OTAs. Fitzgerald must have sensed this as he was on his way out of the Cardinals’ locker room on Tuesday after a one-on-one interview. All it took was one additional request and he agreed to return for a full-on media scrum. Follow Craig Morgan on Twitter – / 11last_img