On the field, no receiver is immune from cornerback Jalen Ramsey’s verbal gamesmanship and sparring.
Larry Fitzgerald, a future Hall of Famer, will no doubt hear from Ramsey on Sunday when the Rams play a road game against the Arizona Cardinals.
But on Friday, Ramsey was noticeably respectful of Fitzgerald, a 16-year pro.
“He’s a legend,” Ramsey said.
Fitzgerald, an 11-time Pro Bowl selection, has 1,358 receptions and 16,872 yards receiving, second only to Hall of Famer Jerry Rice in both categories. Fitzgerald has 119 touchdown catches, which rank sixth all time.
On a Cardinals team that features first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury and rookie quarterback Kyler Murray — the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft — the 36-year old Fitzgerald remains a focal point. He has a team-best 55 catches for 593 yards and three touchdowns.
“Just looking forward to being out on the same field as him and go out and compete,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey covered Fitzgerald during a game in 2017, Ramsey’s second season with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Cardinals won, 27-24, but Ramsey helped limit Fitzgerald to three catches for 12 yards.
“The matchup went pretty well for me,” said Ramsey, acquired by the Rams in a trade last month.
When the Rams played the Cardinals last season at State Farm Field, Fitzgerald caught six passes for 53 yards. He also passed for a touchdown for the first time in his NFL career.
It was not enough to hold off a Rams team that won, 31-9, despite the absence of injured running back Todd Gurley.
It was the Cardinals’ second-to-last game of the season, and some observers thought it might be Fitzgerald’s last home game for the team that selected him with the third pick in the 2004 draft. Fitzgerald returned, however, and has provided Murray with a seasoned target.
“You talk about the epitome of a pro — class, represents everything that’s right about the NFL,” Rams coach Sean McVay said of Fitzgerald. “Then the production, the talent, what he’s done over the course of his career is why he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer, without a doubt.”
Rams receiver Robert Woods, a seven-year pro, has admired Fitzgerald since the former University of Pittsburgh star appeared on the cover of a popular video game in 2005.
“One of the best players in the league as a person and as a receiver making game-changing plays still,” Woods said. “You see him helping players up and just encouraging players.
“I think he’s an inspiration to all players to be more like him, and really just have that same energy and that fire year after year — and he’s still doing so.”
Despite Fitzgerald’s resume and reputation, Ramsey said he would approach his assignment no differently.
“I’m going to play the same way,” he said. “Play my game.”
Ramsey is part of a Rams defense that got pummeled last Monday in a 45-6 rout by the Baltimore Ravens.
Former Rams cornerback Marcus Peters — traded to the Ravens hours before the Rams traded for Ramsey — intercepted a pass during the game. Afterward, Peters and Ramsey got into a verbal altercation on the field. Peters yelled several obscenities at no one in particular as he ran up the Coliseum tunnel. A Rams employee calmed Ramsey.
Ramsey declined to answer questions after the game about the incident.
On Friday, when asked about it, he said, “Next question.”
Asked again, he said, “Next question. There’s no reason to talk about it,” before ending his locker room media session after he was asked again.
Tight end Gerald Everett (knee), offensive lineman Rob Havenstein (knee) and defensive back Darious Williams (ankle) will not play Sunday, McVay said. Everett was injured last Monday during the loss to the Ravens. Tight ends Tyler Higbee and Johnny Mundt will play against the Cardinals. Havenstein was sidelined the last two games because of an injury suffered against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Bobby Evans will start again in Havenstein’s place. Safety Marqui Christian (knee) was a full participant in practice on Friday and he will play against the Cardinals. ... Murray was listed as questionable on the Cardinals injury report because of a hamstring issue, but is expected to start Sunday.