TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — DeAndre Hopkins has spent 10 years in the NFL and is now six months past his 30th birthday.
That’s usually about the time even the greats start to slow down.
Once again, the Arizona Cardinals star receiver is proving he’s an outlier.
The Cardinals’ season has been a dud so far, but Hopkins continues to put up big numbers. The three-time All-Pro is still tracking for a 1,000-yard season, despite missing the first six games of the season after being suspended by the NFL for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancers.
Hopkins said when opposing coaches and players watch his tape, he hopes they see the same thing they’ve seen for a decade.
“Just someone who’s a dog, who wants to compete,” Hopkins said. “I’m not the fastest, I’m not the strongest, but I’m 30 years old and I still feel like whoever is across from me, I’m going to win.”
More often than not, that’s a correct assessment. Hopkins has caught 49 passes for 574 yards and three touchdowns in six games this season.
Entering Monday, he’s already 37th in NFL history with 11,155 yards receiving and tied for 46th with 71 receiving TDs.
The Cardinals (4-8) host the New England Patriots (6-6) on Monday night.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick — a six-time Super Bowl winner — had high praise for Hopkins coming into this week’s game.
“His ball skills are at the very elite level with guys that I’ve seen in this league,” Belichick said. “He’s up there with whoever the top guys are, the Cris Carter’s of the world and guys like that. He’s every bit as good as anybody I’ve ever coached against.”
Hopkins spent his first seven seasons with the Houston Texans before coming to the Cardinals in 2020. He was traded for running back David Johnson and a second-round pick, which was immediately considered one of the most lopsided trades in recent NFL history.
With every catch Hopkins makes, the Cardinals are glad they made the decision.
“Everybody loves him, respects him and understands what he brings to the team,” Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray said.
Hopkins has also emerged as a team leader and a staunch defender of Murray, who signed a $230.5 million contract during the offseason. The fourth-year quarterback has endured plenty of criticism because of Arizona’s tough season.
Most recently, former Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson said on his “All Things Covered” podcast that “Kyler Murray don’t care about nobody but Kyler Murray.” Hopkins was quick to defend his quarterback on social media and in person.
“I’m not one to give a PSA about Kyler, but he plays hard,” Hopkins said. “Obviously, there’s 11 people on the field. Not just him. Ten other people have to do their jobs for him to be successful.
“One thing I know about Kyler, he loves this game.”
Hopkins is no stranger to criticism. He’s received plenty of it since he was suspended by the NFL in May. The receiver is still not exactly sure what caused him to test positive for a substance that he’s previously said was a small amount of Ostarine.
“I’ve never took a supplement, I’ve never took any of that kind of stuff,” Hopkins said this summer. “Obviously, if you know about what it is, it can be a shampoo, it can be in a lot of different things. The NFL is very black and white, so of course, I wish the rule wasn’t so black and white, but it is what it is.”
Hopkins hasn’t spent much time dwelling on the suspension, instead making up for lost time. He had back-to-back 100-yard receiving games in his return and had four catches for 87 yards and a touchdown in last week’s loss to the Chargers.
Arizona’s season is rapidly devolving into a lost cause, but the Hopkins-Murray connection should return for next season. Hopkins has shown no signs that he’s slowing down and said he’s trying to emulate his game after several greats who stayed productive well into their 30s.
“Randy Moss, he got later in his career and was still successful. Love watching Randy. Steve Smith as well,” Hopkins said. “But the ultimate guy is Jerry Rice. He did it for however long he did it at a successful level.
“So Jerry Rice is the person I want to reach or play as long as he did.”
Hopkins is known for his ball-catching skills, particularly in traffic. He’s talked about the huge gloves he has to order for his large hands and hopes that’s something that will help carry him to greatness deep into his 30s.
“Your hands, they don’t go anywhere,” Hopkins said. “I’m excited to see how long I can play.”
AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL