Arizona Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald as a Vocal Leader Will Result in Playoffs

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Arizona Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald as a Vocal Leader Will Result in Playoffs
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Although he has proven to be one of the elite receivers in the NFL, Arizona Cardinals superstar Larry Fitzgerald hasn't proven to take charge as a vocal, emotional leader as his team's best player.

That seems to be changing because Fitzgerald feels his window is closing.

A more vocal Fitzgerald entering his ninth season will be the lift the team needs to return to the postseason in 2012.

Typically content to lead by example, Fitzgerald's tone has apparently changed. He expressed a heightened sense of urgency in a recent interview with Jim Rome, according to CBSSports.com's Will Brinson:

"I remember walking off the field after the 2008 Super Bowl loss thinking we'd be back here again, that it's only a matter of time. But that's a lot more difficult to do."

Despite the fact he is only 28-years-old, the veteran has accumulated more mileage than most counterparts at his age.

One encouraging trend working in Fitzgerald's favor: he has been able to stay exceptionally healthy throughout his wonderful career.

In that same vein, though, he's said that he knows tomorrow isn't guaranteed.

For Fitzgerald, it's beginning to hit home that he may not manage to reach the league's biggest stage ever again, probably because let's face it—many great players don't get there a second time, if ever.

Will the Cardinals make the 2012 playoffs?

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Since the magical run to Super Bowl XLIII and a legendary playoff performance by Fitzgerald, the Cardinals made the postseason the following year, but got blown out in the divisional round against the eventual champion New Orleans Saints.

Two disappointing years have followed, but the team is clearly on the uptick after the second-half spurt it just experienced a season ago.

Under the direction of quarterback John Skelton and a massively improved defense, the Cardinals managed to finish last season on a 6-2 run.

All-Pro safety Adrian Wilson maintained his loyalty to the organization by signing an extension recently, and taking a significant pay cut. NFL.com's Brian McIntyre noticed this trend after a report by   Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic.

2011 No. 5 overall pick Patrick Peterson should make a big leap, which should translate to the Cardinals keeping opponents' passing games in check.

The biggest question mark about the Cardinals' passing game is not Fitzgerald, but it is who will be throwing him the football.

Kevin Kolb signed a lucrative contract to be the franchise quarterback, but Skelton led the team to far more victories than Kolb did in an injury-shortened season.

In his defense, Kolb didn't have a full offseason to process the playbook and new terminology, while Skelton has been with the Cardinals since they drafted him in 2010.

 

Fitzgerald must be concerned about the uncertainty surrounding his team at the game's most important position.

However, even with a lot of upheaval under center in 2011, Fitzgerald managed a career-best 17.6 yards per catch including eight receptions of 40 yards or more.

If he's proven anything, Fitz has proven that no matter who is under center—and no matter how many people are covering him—any inconsistencies or obstacles won't hinder the consistency of his production.

What he can prove moving forward—absent an elite quarterback to be the field general—is that taking on a greater, vocal leadership role will take the franchise to new heights.

A more fired up Fitzgerald will have a career year, and the Cardinals will emerge as a playoff team this season despite heightened competition in the NFC West.

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