Josh Weinfuss, ESPN Staff Writer 366d

'Nobody knows' the key to Larry Fitzgerald's longevity

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The secret to Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald's longevity lies somewhere between the old-school cold tub and the new-school gadgets that help players recover quicker.

He knows, maybe better than most, how to keep his body healthy and ready for the daily grind of an NFL season. That durability has helped the 34-year-old Fitzgerald miss just six games in 14 seasons and allowed him to produce a Hall of Fame-worthy career in the process.

Those around him on a daily basis can't tell, for sure, what Fitzgerald does to stay as healthy as he does.

“Nobody knows,” fellow wide receiver Brittan Golden said. “He's always in cold tubs and stuff around here. He's big about it. Especially in this league, once you get over 30, you got to do other stuff to make sure you're healthy and ready to go. He takes care of his body very well.”

It could be because of an extra massage, or using the hot tub or one of the latest devices. Even the coaches aren't sure.

“I don't know what he's doing,” offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said.

Goodwin has seen Fitzgerald in the training room getting massages and in the Cardinals' new cryotherapy chamber, which cools to around 230 degrees below zero to help reduce swelling and improve blood flow. Goodwin says whenever he sees Fitzgerald it feels like the 10-time Pro Bowler is getting something twisted, rubbed or massaged.

Whatever Fitzgerald is doing is working.

He led the league with 107 catches last season at age 33 to finish with his second straight 1,000-yard season.

“Age is more a state of mind than it is an actual physical number,” he said. “You see people nowadays in all different sports are doing it at a higher level for longer. You look at baseball and see what Ichiro is able to do. You look at hockey and Jaromir Jagr is [45 and] still playing.

“People are still playing at a high level at years when people are said, ‘This is well past your prime so if you take care of your body and you're still into it mentally and you're still willing to do what's necessary to be at the top, it's not that difficult.'"

Fitzgerald has proved he has been.

There are fewer and fewer players like Fitzgerald every year. This season, there are 57 players on NFL rosters who are 34 or older, according to ESPN Stats & Information, including 16 offensive skill players -- quarterbacks, receivers, running backs and tight ends -- down from 30 last season.

Not all are future Hall of Famers, although a few like Indianapolis Colts running back Frank Gore, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees are among the group.

On Monday night, he'll stand across the field at University of Phoenix Stadium from another one of them: Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.

Fitzgerald and Witten enter tonight's game third and fourth, respectively on the NFL's all-time receptions list. Fitzgerald is No. 3 with 1,134 catches and Witten is No. 4 with 1,106.

Both have been among the most productive at their respective positions the past few years. In addition to leading the league in catches last season, Fitzgerald tied for fifth among receivers in 2015. Witten was sixth among tight ends in catches last season and fourth in 2015.

And neither missed a game either of those seasons.

“They take great care of themselves,” coach Bruce Arians said. “They're not guys that are abusing their bodies. Larry gets plenty of rest, and so does Jason.”

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