Larry Fitzgerald might not talk a lot of trash on the field, but when it comes to playing video games, his inner bad boy comes out.
"Nothing is premeditated, it's just all spur of the moment what comes off my tongue," he tells me. "I might make fun of your shirt or your shoes. Whatever it takes to distract you from the task at hand and take your attention away from what you're doing in the game."
And this year, when Fitzgerald plays "Madden," he's not only defending his Xbox 360, he's defending his image, as he appears on the cover of the game along with Troy Polamalu of the Steelers.
"I don't care if you're on the cover, you still can't beat me," I tell him.
"That's what your mom says," he fires right back with a laugh. "Don't write checks that your ass can't cash."
Here's what else Fitzgerald had to say as I caught up with him inside the Edison Ballroom in New York, a couple of hours before he was the special guest of honor at this year's EA Sports NFL luncheon.
ESPN: What are some of your favorite "Madden" memories from back in the day?
Larry Fitzgerald: I was always a big Minnesota Vikings fan growing up in Minnesota, so I would always play as the Vikings and throw it deep to Randy Moss. I remember running screen plays to Robert Smith and throwing it to Cris Carter in the red zone and running all over the field with Daunte (Culpepper). Those were some of the fun times for me as a youth.
ESPN: Robert Smith is one of the all-time greats in "Madden" because of his speed.
Larry Fitzgerald: He could run away from anybody.
ESPN: Were you a big fan of any of the features in the game like the ambulance or the Hit Stick?
Larry Fitzgerald: The Hit Stick is a tremendous invention. It really gave you control as a defensive player because most of the time, "Madden" is such an offensive game. But the Hit Stick really gave you the opportunity to shine on defense for the first time.
ESPN: Would you like to see any new features made specifically to wide receivers. Maybe give your character some special magnet hands since you're on the cover.
Larry Fitzgerald: Magnet hands sound good to me. [laughs] Anything to swing momentum back in the offenses favor. We need to stay a step ahead of the defensive guys. Football is an offensive game … we do sell the tickets.
ESPN: Sorry to bring this up, but you obviously know about the whole curse that goes along with being on the cover. Will two players being on the same cover make the curse twice as powerful or will it cut the curse to half-power?
Larry Fitzgerald: Two guys makes the curse powerless. This is the first time there are two players on the cover, first "Madden" game after John Madden retired, and besides, both of us have long hair. Nobody with long hair has ever been on the cover.
ESPN: Long hair gets rid of curses?
Larry Fitzgerald: Gets right rid of it.
ESPN: One of the new features in "Madden NFL 10" is the addition of fumble piles where players are battling for the ball. How ugly do those piles get in real life?
Larry Fitzgerald: When that fumble hits the ground, it is a fierce battle down there. It's survival of the fittest.
ESPN: Do players really try to poke you in the eyes down there?
Larry Fitzgerald: Spitting, stepping on your hands … whatever it takes to get the ball out of your hands, they'll do it.
ESPN: You're sharing the cover with Troy Polamalu this year, what's the competition been like on the field between you guys?
Larry Fitzgerald: I've only had the chance to play against him three times, but every time I've played against him, he causes havoc. He's always around the football making plays and just being the destructive force that he is. So to be on the cover with a guy who represents so much good, in terms of life and on the football field, it means a lot. He's a two-time Super Bowl champion, he has numerous All-Pro selections. The guy is amazing.
ESPN: Yeah, but his character can light your character up with the Hit Stick.
Larry Fitzgerald: I know, I know. I'm going to try to avoid him as much as possible.
ESPN: Any advice on how to play as the Cardinals in the game?
Larry Fitzgerald: Anytime you can get me and Anquan (Boldin) on the same side of the field, we've got the advantage because it's so difficult to match-up.
ESPN: What's going on with Anquan? Do you think he'll be on your team this year?
Larry Fitzgerald: He's going to stay with us hopefully. We need to keep him around with us as long as possible.
ESPN: What's your video game setup like at home?
Larry Fitzgerald: I've got the Xbox 360, a Wii, and a PlayStation 3. I got everything you could think of.
I still have a ways to improve, but I just want the game to come out this year and see a 99. Those are the elite players, like Adrian Peterson and Peyton Manning. A 97 is just depressing. When I found out, I couldn't sleep at night.
”-- Larry Fitzgerald
ESPN: What about your rating in "Madden" last year? When the game came out, were you happy with a 97 overall?
Larry Fitzgerald: It was depressing. I still have a ways to improve, but I just want the game to come out this year and see a 99. Those are the elite players, like Adrian Peterson and Peyton Manning. A 97 is just depressing. When I found out, I couldn't sleep at night. [laughs]
ESPN: Not sure if the end of the Super Bowl still keeps you up at night as well, but when you look back at the game, you made that touchdown catch where you're running down the field and you're looking up at the Jumbotron to see that nobody was going to catch you. Did you think you had it won?
Larry Fitzgerald: I know we had a ways to go to finish it out. When you're playing against a team like Pittsburgh who is just an amazing champion, you have to finish those guys out. They're not going to lay down. They're not going to quit.
ESPN: So what do you say to people who think the Cardinals were just a fluke last year?
Larry Fitzgerald: People are always going to talk. I know we've been a bad team that hasn't won much of anything, but that's all going to change. We have to change it ourselves and the guys need to be dedicated to that.
ESPN: Who are your favorite wide receivers to watch play?
Larry Fitzgerald: Andre Johnson is playing fantastic. Steve Smith, Randy Moss, Reggie Wayne, Anquan Boldin … Wes Welker is amazing.
ESPN: So if you're playing "Madden," who is your favorite target, besides yourself, of course?
Larry Fitzgerald: You can't go wrong throwing the ball to Steve Smith or Randy Moss.
ESPN: Is it funny that as a kid, your favorite player in Madden was Randy Moss, and here you are on the cover of the game, and you're still throwing it to Randy?
Larry Fitzgerald: He's still making those same plays, though, that's what counts. I'm getting older. That's what that really shows me.
ESPN: Now you have old fingers, that's why I can beat you in "Madden" so easy.
Larry Fitzgerald: Don't make me start talking about the way you play. [laughs] Besides, I can't lose. Not this year. I'm on the cover.