'Ball's in his court': Larry Fitzgerald missed on first day of Cardinals' camp

Larry Fitzgerald, the future Hall of Fame receiver, hasn't publicly announced his plans for the near future: Come back for an 18th NFL season or retire. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- When Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds walked to his room at the Renaissance Hotel in Glendale on Tuesday to prepare for the first day of training camp, he noticed he had the same accommodations as the last couple seasons.

But something was missing this year.

In the past, Larry Fitzgerald's room was near Edmonds' -- but not this camp. Someone else is occupying that room.

For the first time since 2004, when he was negotiating his rookie contract, Fitzgerald wasn't at the first day of Cardinals' training camp. The 37-year-old is a free agent and hasn't publicly announced his plans for the near future: Come back and play an 18th season -- with the Cardinals or someone else -- or retire.

"Ball's in his court," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "We've left it in his court. He's earned that. That's how we felt as an organization. And so that's where it's at."

His absence was felt Tuesday by those Cardinals who played alongside Fitzgerald in the past.

Fellow wide receiver Christian Kirk sat down at his locker inside State Farm Stadium on Tuesday morning to prepare for the annual conditioning test that kicks off camp, and for the first time in his young career Fitzgerald wasn't next to him.

"It definitely feels weird without him," said Kirk, who was Fitzgerald's teammate from 2018 to 2020. "There's definitely going to be a little bit of an adjustment period for me.

"He's been around here, a part of this organization for so long, not having him here on the first day is a little weird."

The reality of that hasn't sunk in for Kirk.

"I'm not sure I really had time to you know really process that," Kirk said. "The immediate reaction to it, it's just a missing face, something that is so constant."

Kirk has missed Fitzgerald's attitude and personality this offseason from his humor to how he flips the proverbial switch to being serious on the field.

Edmonds was going to send a text message to the group chat he's in with former teammate Trent Sherfield, Fitzgerald and Kirk with a simple message: "We miss you."

Questions about Fitzgerald's playing future have been the hot topic during the past five offseasons. Not knowing which season was going to be Fitzgerald's last led Kirk to being more appreciative of Fitzgerald.

"Because you never knew going into a new year with him if he's gonna retire or if he's not -- never to take any moment around him for granted," Kirk said. "And I always made sure to cherish whether it was the last game, last practice, last time sitting down eating dinner, whatever it was, just to make sure I cherish those moments."

However, the Cardinals aren't closing the door just yet on the Larry Fitzgerald Era.

Kingsbury said the organization has a plan ready regardless of what Fitzgerald decides. Either way, there'll be a few major decisions about the makeup of the Cardinals' receiving room, one that currently includes DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green, Rondale Moore, KeeSean Johnson and Andy Isabella. Tuesday wasn't the time to discuss that -- and, anyway, Kirk said he doesn't get paid to make those decision.

Both Kirk and Edmonds said Tuesday that they haven't asked Fitzgerald what his plans are for 2021. Kirk wasn't surprised that Fitzgerald has handled his playing future like this. Edmonds called Fitzgerald a "grown man" who's "been around the block a few times."

That didn't stop the question from being asked to Kirk: Is Fitzgerald coming back or not?

"That's the million dollar question."