GLENDALE, Ariz. - Linebacker Chandler Jones was present at the first day of the Arizona Cardinals’ training camp on July 27.
Eleven-time Pro Bowl receiver Larry Fitzgerald was not.
Both developments were expected as the Cardinals opened their preseason at State Farm Stadium. They don’t give much clarification about whether either player will be with the team when the season opens on Sept. 12 against the Tennessee Titans.
First there’s Fitzgerald. He hasn’t said publicly if he’ll return for his 18th season in the desert. He’s been a durable presence for nearly two decades and his absence was obvious.
"It’s not the same right now," running back Chase Edmonds said.
If Fitzgerald has told the Cardinals his plans for the upcoming season, they’re staying tight-lipped. Third-year coach Kliff Kingsbury has deflected questions for months about Fitzgerald’s future and continued that approach after a short practice.
"We’ve left it in his court," Kingsbury said. "He’s earned that."
Fitzgerald turns 38 years old next month and his production on the field has steadily declined over the past few seasons. He started 13 games in 2020, catching 54 passes for 409 yards and one touchdown.
He’s got lots of off-the-field interests, including golf and his role as part owner of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. He was a constant presence on the sidelines as the Suns made the NBA Finals earlier this month.
The Cardinals have seemed open to the idea he might return.
"He’s one of the best players of all time," Kingsbury said. "Been such an incredible representative of this organization, this state and this league. Y’all have talked to him over the years. Great person just to be around, brings a lot of juice."
Outside of Fitzgerald’s future, Jones’ future is also uncertain.
He reported to camp two days after ESPN reported that the 31-year-old was unhappy with his contract and asked for a trade. He’s playing in the final year of a deal that pays him $15.5 million in 2021.
Kingsbury said despite Jones’ reported dissatisfaction, he was "jovial" and in "great shape."
"He’s been great," Kingsbury said. "If you know Chandler — a phenomenal human being, obviously a phenomenal football player. We’re just all excited to have him and have him back healthy. Can’t wait to watch him this season."
Jones played in five games last season because of a torn biceps. He had 60 sacks over the previous four seasons, including 19 in 2019.
Kingsbury said on Tuesday that Arizona’s entire coaching staff was vaccinated. The same can’t be said for his players.
"I don’t want to get into exact percentages, but we’ve made a lot of progress over the past week," Kingsbury said. "We’re seeing that thing definitely head in the right direction."
Some of the Cardinals’ players have recently taken to social media to express their opinion on vaccinations, including Edmonds, who has been vaccinated.
"I myself, I don’t ask anybody why or why not they’re vaccinated," Edmonds said. "I chose to get vaccinated for my own personal reasons and I kind of just leave it at that."
Kingsbury said it was mandatory for members of his staff to get the shots: "If we wanted to be in the building, we needed to be vaccinated."
COLLINS MAKES "MISTAKE"
Kingsbury didn’t have much to say about last month’s arrest of rookie linebacker Zaven Collins, who was pulled over for allegedly driving 76 mph in a 35 mph zone. He was arrested for reckless driving and excessive speeding.
"We talked through it," Kingsbury said. "He knows he made a mistake."
Collins — who was selected 16th overall by the Cardinals out of Tulsa — signed a reported four-year, $14.7 million contract on June 8 with an $8 million signing bonus. Kingsbury has made it clear that he expects Collins and second-year linebacker Isaiah Simmons to be a crucial part of the defense this fall.
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