Optimism for the onset of the Arizona Cardinals' 2022 season was dealt a massive blow with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins' suspension.
Longtime Cardinals great Larry Fitzgerald does not believe the suspension will linger as a blight on Hopkins' résumé, however.
"I don't think so," Fitzgerald answered when asked by TMZ if he thought Hopkins' legacy would be tainted. "He'll still be a Hall of Famer. He's talented. He'll work through it. It's just some adversity and, you know, he's a tough guy, resourceful, and he'll work his way through it."
The NFL announced Hopkins' six-game suspension for violation of the league's performance-enhancing drug policy on May 2. Hopkins released a statement later that night in which he wrote he was "confused and shocked" regarding his positive test.
"In my 10-year NFL career, I have never tested positive for using performance enhancing drugs," Hopkins' statement read, in part. "To learn that my November test came back with trace elements of a banned substance, I was confused and shocked.
"I am very mindful of what I put it in my body and have always taken a holistic approach, so I am working with my team to investigate how this could've happened. But even as careful as I have been, clearly I wasn't careful enough. For that, I apologize to Cardinals fans, my teammates, and the entire Cardinals organization. I never want to let my team down."
Fitzgerald and Hopkins were Cardinals teammates for one season in 2020 -- the former's last with the organization and the latter's first.
It's likely how Hopkins responds and returns will leave the lasting legacy for his career. At 28, Hopkins has three All-Pro designations and five Pro Bowl selections to his credit in nine seasons -- the first seven coming with the Houston Texans. Along the way, he's produced 789 receptions (36th all time), 10,581 yards receiving (42nd), and 68 touchdown catches (T50th). To say he's already a Hall of Famer might be a premature argument.
To say he's important to the Cardinals is not, of course.
In seven games without Hopkins in 2021, the Cardinals were 3-4.
In Hopkins' absence going forward, quarterback Kyler Murray and the offense will have to lean on the recently acquired Marquise Brown, the returning A.J. Green and Rondale Moore at receiver, along with veteran Zach Ertz and rookie Trey McBride at tight end.
"They got some talented guys around them," Fitzgerald said. "Obviously, it's a big blow, but I think they'll be able to weather the storm."
With Murray's desire for a new contract and the drama that's played out in regard to it coupled with Hopkins' suspension, the Cardinals' offseason has been a storm itself.
Arizona will start 2022 without Hopkins for the first six games -- which will amount to 11 straight without him, dating back to last season. Upon his return, he'll be called on to provide a boost to the Cardinals' offense and to remind the NFL world what an all-star talent he is.