Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is returning this weekend to his hometown, but he'll be looking for a win over the team he grew up loving.
Fitzgerald, a Minneapolis native who worked as a ball boy for the Vikings as a teenager, told Arizona media members earlier this week that he's always been a Vikings fan.
"I would lie to you if I told you I wasn't. I pull for them to win when I'm not playing against them," Fitzgerald said. "You grow up there and work for the team and get to know the people in the organization, that's just how it is. I live up there in the summer time."
Fitzgerald has 110 career touchdowns but hasn't found the end zone yet this season.
Fellow Minnesota native, Vikings receiver Adam Thielen (Detroit Lakes), has watched Fitzgerald for years and has connected off the field for golf outings. Thielen has three touchdowns so far in 2018 and enters Week 6 with a league-leading 47 receptions.
The two receivers play on different teams, but the respect is mutual.
"You watch his process and his humility, where he started from, and being a guy born and raised in Minnesota like him, it just makes me so damn proud to see him doing the things he's doing," Fitzgerald said via conference call with the Twin Cities media members Thursday. "But not just on the field – the way he carries himself, the constant professional, the teammate he is. Being around him at different events, I mean, the guy is 'class' personified, and it just makes me so, so happy to see someone like that be rewarded for the person that they are.
"You see the hard work he puts in, and it's an honor to call him a friend, and I just wish him the best and the continued success," Fitzgerald added.
Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson also spoke highly of Thielen.
The seven-time Pro Bowler said Minnesota has a unique offensive personnel with "two receivers that can take the top off defenses" in Thielen and Stefon Diggs.
"Adam's playing great ball right now – I believe he's the only receiver in the Super Bowl era to have five 100-games [to open a season]. Stefon Diggs is still being Diggs," Peterson said. "And then you've got [Kyle] Rudolph, who can pretty much create matchups, as well. And [Kirk Cousins is] playing his best football – 71 percent completion rate, and he has a [105.1] quarterback rating. I think like two interceptions, 11 touchdowns? He's playing really, really solid right now, so we definitely have our hands full."
Here are other some other highlights of the Cardinals talking about the Vikings this week:
Peterson on the Vikings run game:
"I believe they're [31st] in the league in rushing, and we're [32nd]. So as a defense, we have to make sure we establish that we're not going to give up the run. Make sure that we keep those guys behind the chains – not being second-and-4, second-and-3. … We think if we can get on track as far as winning on first downs, slowing the run down, force Kirk Cousins to continue to throw the ball 40, 50 times, we have a pretty good opportunity to win it."
Cardinals Head Coach Steve Wilks on Cousins' ability under pressure:
"I think he's doing a great job. His accuracy is there. The offense … he's made for it. [Vikings Offensive Coordinator John] DeFilippo puts him in great positions to be successful. And then for the most part, he's doing a great job with the rush. I can't say enough about what he's doing. He commands that huddle and does a great job."
Wilks on Linval Joseph's fumble return TD, Vikings overall defense:
(Laughs) "He looked like a running back or receiver. It came right to him and he did a great job of getting into the end zone. I can't speak enough about their front. [Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer] does a great job, and I know [Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards] real well. They all do a great job. You talk about [Danielle] Hunter, [Sheldon] Richardson, as well … and then you get to the second level with [Eric] Kendricks and [Anthony] Barr. Then Xavier [Rhodes] holds his own back there. It's a good defense, and we're going to have our hands full."
Cardinals Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy on Minnesota's defense:
"Coach Zimmer's defense always presents a number of problems with the pressures he brings and the style of defense he plays. He's always had a great defense."
Cardinals RB David Johnson on a Zimmer defense:
"Exotic defense. And they'll blitz everyone, like [Cardinals running backs coach Kirby Wilson (who was with Minnesota from 2014-15)] says. If they have a Vikings jersey on, they're going to blitz. They might pressure the quarterback – corner, safety, linebacker, everyone. Just expect someone to blitz almost on every play. Always expect an exotic front and an exotic defense."
Cardinals Defensive Coordinator Al Holcomb on the Vikings offense:
"He's playing at a high level right now, Kirk is, and he's got a lot of confidence, he's getting the ball out quick, he's commanding the offense. He's been playing very well, throwing the ball at a high completion percentage rate, and then you talk about the two receivers, Thielen and Diggs, and those guys make plays. They make plays. The ball is not perfect every time, but they find a way to come down with it. Very good players."