Bill Belichick says Larry Fitzgerald 'might end up as the best [WR] ever'
Bill Belichick had high praise for Larry Fitzgerald, who he'll face off against on Sunday when the Cardinals come to New England.
He won't tell you that (we tried to get him to during a recent interview on Pro Football 360), but you don't have to go far to find someone to praise Fitz. For instance, just ask the guy who's in charge of stopping him this week, Bill Belichick. Belichick, asked during his conference call what Fitzgerald "brings to the table," had nothing but effusive praise for the wide receiver.
"He does everything well. He’s a great, great receiver; will go down as one of the all-time greats and might end up being the best one ever, I don’t know," Belichick said on Tuesday. "He has size, quickness, ability to separate and gets open, exceptional hands. He’s good short, deep, with the ball in his hands after the catch; strong, very smart, sets up his routes well. They move him around, they put him in a lot of different spots, it’s hard to even find [him]; you have no idea where he’s going to line up from play to play. He has a very big route tree; he runs all the routes with double moves off of them and complementary moves so one route sets up another. It’s very hard to defend him. It’s very hard to find him and then it’s very hard to defend him."
Oftentimes Belichick will ramble when he answers questions from the media in order to limit the number of questions the media can ask. But it's pretty clear that Fitzgerald is one of those players that really pops up on his radar.
"Again, he’s just as dangerous going down the field as he is taking a shorter pass and running with it so that’s not really the answer either – just letting him catch it in front of you and not give up any big plays because he can make plays there too," Belichick continued. "Try to keep the ball out of his hands but that’s not easy."
Though he's had tons of receiving talent in New England during his tenure -- Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, etc -- Belichick's never had a talent like that of Fitzgerald on his roster along with Tom Brady.
It's crazy to think about the numbers Fitz would have if he'd always played with an elite NFL quarterback: he's missed just four games in his career and despite catching passes from the likes of Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton and Kevin Kolb over the past two years, Fitzgerald has still managed to catch at least 80 balls for 1,100 yards the last two years. In fact, despite a terrible quarterbacking season in 2011, the wideout still caught 80 passes for 1,411 yards -- the second-highest receiving total of his career.
Though it looks like the Patriots defense is significantly improved from 2011's rendition, it's still likely that Fitzgerald will see plenty of targets on Sunday and probably give Belichick even more reason to praise him as a wideout.
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