The New England Patriots and Arizona Cardinals meet in a huge game for both teams on Sunday afternoon. The game won’t be short on big-name stars.
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Patriots and Cardinals Equals Plenty of Star Power
The Patriots have former league MVP Cam Newton, reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore, and potential Hall-of-Famer Devin McCourty. The Cardinals have budding superstar Kyler Murray, all-world wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, and future Hall-of-Famer Patrick Peterson. One lock Hall-of-Famer won’t be on the field for the Cardinals, and that’s Larry Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald Won’t Play, But His Impact Will Be Felt
He will miss the game because he is currently on the COVID-19 reserve list. Fitzgerald reportedly tested positive for the virus but is seemingly not otherwise in poor health. The ageless wonder is one of the greatest players the league has seen in 20 years. His career has touched a number of players and one of them is Patriots receiver, Damiere Byrd.
Even with Fitzgerald’s absence, that didn’t prevent Byrd from talking about Fitzgerald’s positive impact on him as a professional.
“It was great, I learned a lot from Larry,” said Byrd in a recent interview that was a part of an article from Mike Dussault on Patriots.com. “How to be a professional and just how to be consistent as a receiver, day in and day out. I really cherish my time being able to learn from him and go under his wing.”
It’s almost impossible for a player with such a huge reputation for excellence in performance and professionalism not to have a positive impact on his teammates.
The Emergence of Byrd
Byrd is coming off a career day in the loss to the Houston Texans last week. Byrd had six catches for 132 yards and his first TD of the season. It wasn’t enough as the Patriots fell 27-20 and on the cusp of losing every opportunity to play in the postseason. The hope is that the connection the team found between Cam Newton and Byrd can be built upon in the coming weeks.
Many are already seeing Byrd’s performance as predicting an elevation in status for him. Sports Illustrated’s Mac McAuliffe wrote:
This revelation for Damiere Byrd was a part of an otherwise disappointing 27-20 loss for the Patriots to the Houston Texans last Sunday. From his very first reception, it was obvious that Byrd was in the zone (quite literally since his first reception was a deep in-route against Cover 3). However, it was not until a highlight-reel 42-yard touchdown reception, a play that will be used to reflect on this season, that everyone really started to know that “the Byrd was the word,” as we now say.
At one point this season, the cry for the Patriots to acquire a top-notch wide receiver was the loudest complaint that could be heard from the team’s fanbase and local media. However, as Jakobi Meyers and now Byrd have both shown their worth, the outcries are not quite as loud. Perhaps N’Keal Harry will follow suit and have his best game as a pro on Sunday against the Cardinals.
That might be just what the doctor ordered.