Odd couple of Boldin, Fitzgerald makes dynamic duo
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 10, 2005 12:00 AM
Anquan Boldin (81) and Larry Fitzgerald (11) are among the NFL's best receiving tandems.
One bounds merrily around the Cardinals locker room, a microphone in his hand, two cameramen in tow, popping up to unsuspecting teammates to tape bits for his weekly television spot. The laughs are everywhere.
The other sits quietly on a stool in front of his locker, head down, reflecting after the first full practice of the week leading up to Sunday's game against the visiting Washington Redskins. For him, there is only silence.
Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald might be polar opposites when it comes to their personalities. On the field, this yin and yang combination has meshed so well the pair catapulted into the top wide receiving tandem in the NFL.
No receiver duo this season has caught more passes (150) for more yardage (2,120). They are the only two players on the same team with at least 67 receptions each.
No other combo has come close to their 13 total 100-yard receiving games. If they each gain triple-digit yards against the Redskins, it would mark the fifth time they have both accomplished the feat in 2005, tying an NFL record.
In between Boldin's high-energy, microphone-toting, merry-go-round in the locker room earlier this week, he sat down next to Fitzgerald long enough for the two rising stars to talk about each other, the game they love and their vastly different make-ups.
So Anquan, tell us something about Larry that most people don't know?
"OK. Yeah. He's ugly."
Fitzgerald forces a smile.
"Oh yeah, wait. And he's got this picture hanging in his house in his game room you've just gotta see. I wish I had a shot of it for you."
Boldin bursts out laughing.
OK, Larry, your turn. Can you tell us something about Anquan the rest of us may not know?
"I don't think people really appreciate the fact of what kind of a student of the game he is, how much he prepares for his opponent."
Quiet for a change, Boldin nods, comically puffing out his chest.
The scene repeats itself over and over. Boldin yuks it up, Fitzgerald plays the straight man. They could star at the Improv, not just in stadiums on Sundays. Whether the subject is cooking, touchdown celebrations or salutations toward each other, their exchanges are as unique as their character.
They are part Felix and Oscar, a little Butch and Sundance, and a whole lot of Will Smith and Denzel Washington.
"They're very different in a lot of respects, but they're both great guys in their own right, and I think it makes for a great mix," said quarterback Kurt Warner
, who has been the benefactor of an NFL-high five 300-yard passing games thanks primarily to Boldin and Fitzgerald. "Each one plays well because of the demeanor they have.
"Q's (Boldin) a little more outspoken, a little more vibrant and fun. And he's emotional, as you can see on the field. I think he plays better when he's got that emotion. On the other side, you've got Larry, who's more reserved and laid-back. He's more of a thinker - always thinking about what he wants to do - and he plays better in that situation as opposed to getting all outside of himself and emotional."
A couple of things Boldin and Fitzgerald have in common: They don't drink alcohol, and they tend to shy away from the nightlife, other than grabbing dinner together once a week with the rest of the Cardinals receivers.
"As crazy as he is and as much as he likes to be talking, you'll never hear any swear words coming out of his mouth, either," Fitzgerald said, looking Boldin dead in the eye. "Me? I don't really say too much. I pretty much speak when spoken to for the most part."
Boldin is 25, Fitzgerald 22. In time, both may change. Success, the money and recognition, and adulthood have a way of doing that. But asked if any of Boldin's gregariousness rubs off on him, Fitzgerald quickly provides a straightforward answer.
"No. If anything," he said, "I think I might be rubbing off on him."
Boldin rolls his eyes, and his jaw drops with exaggeration.
"I don't think so, my man," Boldin shouts. "I'm not going to change the way I am. Especially on the field. I like to trash talk. I like to express myself. You know, without all the crazy stuff. I'll keep it in the white lines. But I play hard. I'm enthusiastic."
How good might Boldin and Fitzgerald be a year from now, or three years from now?
"It'll be scary," Boldin said. "Both of us are young, and we're just starting to put it together and hit our strides. If we stay together, like we're supposed to, I think we're going to put up some pretty big numbers."
Warner is licking his chops. With the way the trio have hooked up through the air - Arizona has the most prolific passing game in the NFL - a contract extension seems inevitable for the Cardinals quarterback.
"You know you can't play good football unless you have good players around you," he said, "and those guys are playmakers. The great thing is, they're playing at that level now, but God knows, they're only going to get better and better."
How does Cardinals coach Dennis Green
view the prospect of two of the NFL's best young receivers?
"They're going to have phenomenal years and be a big part of the success of the Arizona Cardinals in the future," Green said.
Boldin and Fitzgerald will have Joe Gibbs' full attention on Sunday. The Redskins coach knows the Cardinals are virtually one-dimensional on offense, but teams still haven't been able to bottle up the two receivers.
"We have a lot of respect for them," Gibbs said. "We're going to have to play a great game to have a chance."