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Fitgerald brings fellow WR stars to Minneapolis

McClatchy Newspapers

MINNEAPOLIS — Larry Fitzgerald Jr. knew he wanted to bring some of the NFL's top talent to the Twin Cities this summer to workout, share ideas and talk shop about their craft.

He took his idea a step further by inviting the greatest wide receiver in NFL history to join him. Jerry Rice didn't need much convincing, even though he didn't really know Fitzgerald, the Arizona Cardinals Pro Bowl wide receiver and former Holy Angels star who is widely regarded as one of the top wide receivers in the NFL today.

"I had heard great things about Larry," said Rice, the future Hall of Famer who set a host of receiving records with the San Francisco 49ers. "We've never really had an opportunity to spend time together. But you can tell he just loves the game and he works at it."

Fitzgerald hopes to make the Twin Cities a popular destination for NFL players looking to stay in shape with intensive workouts prior to the start of training camp. Fitzgerald, Rice and a group of players that included wide receivers Brandon Marshall (Denver Broncos), Greg Jennings (Green Bay Packers) and Michael Clayton (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) worked out at the Gophers practice facility Wednesday.

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Others who took part included Arizona Cardinals safety Antrel Rolle, Steelers tight end and former Gopher Matt Spaeth, St. Louis Rams rookie linebacker James Laurinaitis and Cardinals tight end Dominique Byrd.

The word is starting to spread among NFL players, too. Quarterbacks Tony Romo of Dallas and Joe Flacco of Baltimore are expected to arrive for workouts next week. Buffalo Bills wide receiver Lee Evans and former Vikings receiver Cris Carter also are planning to visit.

Fitzgerald, who works out of Velocity Sports Performance in Champlin, said he wants to create a must-stop destination for players who are looking to gain an edge in offseason training.

"We're the young guns, the young guys that are just coming up and making plays," he said. "I think this is a good group."

Rice was a main draw, of course. Rice's offseason regimen as a player was legendary, and at age 46, he still appears to be in remarkable shape. Rice participated in all the conditioning drills and worked on route running with the other receivers, offering tips and insight.

"Fitz called and told me the GOAT [Greatest Of All Time] was going to be here," Jennings said. "Anytime you get an opportunity to work with a legend like that, you've got to take advantage of it. That was my main focus, trying to get here, to sponge off some of his knowledge that he can feed to us."

Marshall already is a Pro Bowl wide receiver, but he said he also jumped at the opportunity to work with Fitzgerald, whom he knows only casually.

"He is what I want to be, he's what a lot of guys in the NFL want to be as far as wide receivers and even guys at other positions," Marshall said. "When you get an opportunity to pick the brain of probably the best receiver in the game right now, you would be a fool not to take advantage of it. This is probably one of the best things I've done since I've been in the league."

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