TEMPE, Ariz. -- It’s a topic Larry Fitzgerald doesn’t like to talk about.
Whenever it comes up, the Arizona Cardinals Pro Bowl wide receiver tries to put room between the question and himself -- like he’s separating from a defensive back at the line of scrimmage.
It’s his future.
Fitzgerald was asked Tuesday if there was a chance 2016 could be his last NFL season. He bristled.
"Honestly, I have no idea," he said. "I really don’t look at it like that. I look at it just as day-to-day. I feel good every day waking up, going to practice, working. Last year, I was able to stay healthy, so that just puts you in a different state of mind that you can get up and do everything you’re capable of doing."
Fitzgerald will be 33 when his 13th season starts in September and entering the final year of his contract. Financially, he’s a burden to the Cardinals with a $15.85 million cap hit. But his performance last season justified his $11 million salary this year.
He had a career-high 109 catches for 1,215 yards -- his first 1,000-yard season since 2011 -- and nine touchdowns. Physically, he’s not playing like a 13-year vet in his mid-30s.
"I was fortunate enough to be in Pittsburgh with Heinz Ward at the end," Cardinals offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin said. "I think Larry’s just as fast as Heinz was that year in his career.
"I think Larry has a lot of tread left on his tire. Obviously, he’s in the last year of his deal. That’s out of my pay scale, but obviously I think he’s still got juice in the system."
Fitzgerald said it’s too early in the year for him to think about any long-term decisions following this season.
"We’re just in OTAs right now," he said. "And then you got training camp and minicamp and the regular season.
"You got a long way to go until that even has to be a point of discussion. I’m just enjoying this and just trying to make this the best year yet."
In order for 2016 to be the "best year yet" it will have to end in Houston, on Feb. 5, 2017, amid a downfall of red and white confetti. After last season’s loss in the NFC Championship Game, the natural progression is a berth in Super Bowl 51.
But he can’t taste it just yet.
Fitzgerald’s been around too long to know predictions and presumptions mean nothing -- not in May nor in January. He referred to last year’s Super Bowl matchup between Denver and Carolina. How many people predicted it, he asked?
Heading into this season, the Cardinals are among the favorites to not just make the Super Bowl, but to win it. Having played in the game just once in 12 seasons, Fitzgerald understands how difficult it is to make it to the last game of the season. And he’s finding out just how tough it is to return.
"There’s so many things that have to go your way to get into that position," Fitzgerald said.
"What we can control is our effort every single day and our preparation. We got a great beginning schedule. We got a lot of home games early on in the season. That’s a great advantage. We got to get out of the gates fast. We can only just take it one week at a time. I don’t think it’s (a) guaranteed Super Bowl berth or anything like that. We don’t look at it like that."
By spending his entire career with the Cardinals, Fitzgerald has learned that nothing in the NFL is guaranteed.
The franchise that was mired in mediocrity when he was drafted eventually pulled itself out of its losing ways and into Super Bowl XLIII. But as quickly as the Cardinals made it to the game’s brightest stage, it quickly fell back into darkness, going 5-11 two years later. But after a run of three straight seasons without a losing record, the Cardinals’ fortunes changed with the hiring of Bruce Arians.
Three years later, they have won 10, 11 and 13 games, respectively, coming within one win of the Super Bowl last year.
"It’s kind of been a roller coaster," Fitzgerald said. "I’ve seen it really, really down, and then we went up and then it was down and then it was up again. That’s sports. But most guys don’t ever get to see that kind of change. I’ve been very fortunate. It’s been a two-way street. I’ve wanted to be here and (Cardinals president) Michael Bidwill has wanted me to be here. That’s something in sports you don’t see happen too often."
Although that loyalty has come at a hefty price for both sides, it’s paying off. Fitzgerald was part of the foundation for last season's record-breaking team, and he will be a pillar again this year.
Once the season ends, decisions will have to be made. Does he want to return for a 14th season? Does he want to return to the Cardinals? Do the Cardinals want him back?
But, in March, Arians raised a possibility that wouldn’t require those questions to be asked.
"If we win the Super Bowl," Arians said at the owners meetings this year, "I would imagine he’d walk out."
It’s just too early to tell.