Offseason Extra: Boldin, Fitzgerald offer helping hands
Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald recently went to Ethiopia to help in relief efforts there. They also took some time to talk football with our Jamey Eisenberg and look ahead to 2012.
Larry Fitzgerald has already had a busy offseason -- and the Cardinals haven't even had a minicamp practice yet. He's had a lot to deal with on and off the field.
With the Cardinals, Fitzgerald nearly had a new quarterback. The team, justifiably so, looked into signing free agent quarterback Peyton Manning after he was released by the Colts.
Manning ultimately decided to sign with the Broncos and Fitzgerald said he is comfortable with Kevin Kolb and John Skelton, who will compete for the starting job in Arizona. But the idea of playing with Manning was exciting for Fitzgerald even though he will remain an elite receiver no matter who is throwing him the ball.
"He's one of the best quarterbacks in the game, so you have to see if it can work," Fitzgerald said in an interview with CBSSports.com. "But now we have to move on."
Fitzgerald spoke on the phone from Ethiopia, where he is with former teammate and current Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin. The two have teamed up with the international relief and development organization Oxfam to raise awareness of the food crisis in East Africa, which affects about 13 million people in the region.
This is the seventh time Fitzgerald has been to Africa, but this is the first trip for Boldin. The duo spent four days in Ethiopia and met with villagers affected by the crisis and also helped to work on an irrigation project that brings water to much needed areas.
"I'm just trying to give up my time and be helpful," Fitzgerald said. "We wanted to help and raise awareness."
Added Boldin: "I wanted to come and learn more about what's going on here. I wanted to get as much information as I can and help out as much as I can."
Fitzgerald said it's easy to take things for granted back home when you see people who can't drink the water in their own village. Boldin helped local villagers build a dam, and he was amazed that some used rocks as tools.
"Because of the drought, a lot of people are suffering," Boldin said. "It's hurting a lot of people."
Both receivers try to give as much time as possible through charitable efforts. When he returns from Africa, Boldin will turn his attention toward the eighth annual Q-Fest to raise money for Pahokee, Fla., where Boldin is from.
After that, it will be time for football. Boldin is hoping for a Super Bowl run after the Ravens fell short last year. He is glad the Ravens kept their main players because "the guys we have are guys we can win with."
Boldin was especially excited the Ravens will have Ray Rice back in 2012. Rice received the franchise tag from the Ravens as a free agent, and he will be a Top 3 overall pick in all Fantasy leagues.
"He's the total package," Boldin said of Rice.
Boldin also spoke highly of second-year receiver Torrey Smith, who is poised for a breakout campaign following a solid rookie season in 2011. We consider Smith a No. 3 Fantasy receiver with upside.
"For him, the sky's the limit," Boldin said of Smith, who had 50 catches for 841 yards and seven touchdowns. "He's one of those guys that's willing to learn and willing to get better."
As for Boldin, he is hoping to improve in 2012. He is now more of a No. 3 Fantasy receiver, but he can rebound if Smith continues to shine and draw coverage and Joe Flacco continues to improve.
"It was a successful season," Boldin said of last year's performance when he had 57 catches for 887 yards and three touchdowns. "I'm just hoping to build off it."
Fitzgerald had another stellar year in 2011 with 80 catches for 1,411 yards and eight touchdowns. He would have been a monster if Manning signed with the Cardinals, but he has proven to post quality stats with any quarterback.
We would like to see Kolb win the job and prove that he's worth the money the Cardinals gave him last year, but Fitzgerald should still shine with either passer. Fitzgerald will likely be drafted in Round 2 in all leagues.
"Hopefully a good year," Fitzgerald said of his outlook for 2012. "I'm trying to improve and help everyone around me get better."
Two players who benefit from playing with Fitzgerald because of all the single coverage they get are receivers Andre Roberts and Early Doucet. Roberts had 51 catches for 586 yards and two touchdowns last year, and Doucet had 54 catches for 689 yards and five touchdowns. They should be considered late-round fliers in deeper Fantasy leagues.
"Andre is going to be good," Fitzgerald said. "He's starting to evolve. He has more potential inside as a slot guy. … Early improved and had the most productive year of his career. I'm excited for those guys."
Everyone should be excited for Fitzgerald and Boldin. They are great players on the field, but they are also excellent men off it with the work they do to make the world a better place.
For more information on Fitzgerald and Boldin's trip to Ethiopia, click here.
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