SCOTTSDALE – At 35 and 22, Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk are at opposite ends of their respective NFL career spectrums. But that age gap didn’t keep the Arizona Cardinals receivers from reacting in the same way to the sudden retirement of 29-year-old Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.
Their message? Let the man do what he chooses. Both players were among the first to express their support for the often-injured Indianapolis Colts star on Twitter following Luck’s unexpected announcement.
Speaking outside Fitzgerald’s 11th annual Fitz’s Supper Club fundraising event in Scottsdale, the pair expanded on the thoughts they shared on social media.
“Everybody’s life is their own,” Fitzgerald said. “You make decisions based on what you need and what’s best for you. I support him playing, I support him retiring – he’s my friend regardless.”
Fitzgerald wasn’t done pitching the architecture collaboration he hinted at on Twitter, either.
“Anybody who knows Andrew knows he’s a really sharp dude. Whatever he decides he’s going to do in his next endeavor, he’s going to be successful doing that,” Fitzgerald said before smiling. “So I was just telling him, ‘You know, if you need some help, well bring me on over to the team.’ I’d be happy to team up with him after.”
Fitzgerald turns 36 Saturday and retirement rumors have circulated around him for the past several seasons. But as he prepares for his 16th NFL season, Fitzgerald said he still feels good and enjoys taking the field.
“It’s something you dream about doing since you’re a child,” Fitzgerald said. “To still be able to do it at 35 years old is a blessing.”
Since entering the league in 2012, Luck has battled significant injuries, including a lacerated kidney in 2015, a concussion in 2016 and a torn muscle in his shoulder that cost him the entire 2017 season. He was trying to get past a lower leg injury during training camp when he decided to call it quits.
Fitzgerald has been more fortunate, missing only six games his entire NFL career and playing in 71 consecutive regular-season or playoff games in a streak that stretches more than four seasons.
“I don’t take it for granted, I don’t take it lightly,” Fitzgerald said, acknowledging his near-iron man status. “The ball has to bounce in your direction for you to be able to do it, and I’m thankful for that.”
Kirk echoed his veteran counterpart’s praise of Luck, but was noticeably bothered by the immediate reaction of some Colts fans who could be heard booing the quarterback off the field after reports of his retirement surfaced during a preseason game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
“Sickening,” said Kirk, who first learned of the booing when he saw a video on Twitter. “I don’t feel like anybody deserves to go through that.”
The nature of Luck’s retirement – a top NFL quarterback in his prime walking away two weeks before his team’s regular-season opener – was bound to be a lightning rod. But Fitzgerald and Kirk represent a large contingent of current and past players who have come to Luck’s defense.
Hall of Fame players Troy Aikman and Bo Jackson each responded forcefully to a disparaging tweet by Fox Sports analyst Doug Gottlieb. Luck’s Indianapolis teammates Eric Ebron and T.Y. Hilton thanked him via social media. Stars such as quarterback Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints, Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette are just a few of the NFL players who posted words of support and encouragement for Luck on social media.
“People don’t really understand how much we put into this sport and what we put on the line for it,” Kirk said at Fitzgerald’s event. “To be booed for a decision about your future is disrespectful, and it’s inconsiderate.”