- Associated Press - Saturday, March 10, 2012

TEMPE, ARIZ. (AP) - The Peyton Manning stakeout moved to Arizona on Saturday, even though there was no sign of the superstar in the desert.

Manning spent nearly six hours at the Denver Broncos‘ facility on Friday, and speculation was high that the Cardinals would be his next stop.

The Cardinals’ facility was a bee hive of activity as the setting for Kurt Warner’s annual “Ultimate Football Experience,” a fundraiser for his First Things First foundation that features current and past football stars. Among them was Cardinals star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who said he knew nothing of any contact the team may have made with Manning.

“I haven’t heard anything,” he said. “I’d like to feel like if he was going to be here I would probably hear something from somebody.”

The presence of Fitzgerald, one of the best receivers in the game, is considered a major reason Manning would consider the Cardinals, who finished last season 7-2 after a 1-6 start to wind up 8-8.

The team has already invested millions in quarterback Kevin Kolb and is scheduled to pay him $7 million if he is on the roster Thursday. The Cardinals, though, had more success with second-year quarterback John Skelton starting than with Kolb, who missed much of the season with turf toe and a concussion.

Fitzgerald, the Cardinals’ career leading receiver, said he understood why Arizona would be interested in Manning.

“He’s a four-time MVP. He’s a Super Bowl champion,” he said. “He’s arguably the best quarterback to ever play football. He’s a free agent. If he’s healthy, I know he’s somebody that can help any team that he goes to. I understand the interest. It makes sense.”

Fitzgerald said he wasn’t surprised Arizona is in the mix.

“After last year, Michael (team President Michael Bidwill) said he was going to continue staying aggressive,” Fitzgerald said, “and he’s going to do everything he can to make sure we’re going to be able to compete for an NFC West championship everything single year. He hasn’t done anything to this point to make us believe anything different.”

Besides Fitzgerald, the Cardinals can offer a state-of-the-art stadium with a retractable roof and natural grass field that slides out into the sunshine when not being used. Then there is the weather _ sunshine with the temperature in the high 70s on Saturday.

The Cardinals have a strong young defense but Manning might be concerned with an inconsistent offensive line that could lose left tackle Levi Brown, unless he restructures his contract. Other than Fitzgerald, the receivers are young.

Warner, who led St. Louis and Arizona to the Super Bowl, said he’s a bit surprised the Cardinals are in the running, mainly because of the investment they have made in Kolb, who was acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles for cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round draft pick.

“But I think that speaks volumes about where the organization is at right now,” Warner said, “how far they’ve come, in saying `Hey, we want to win. No offense to the guys that we have, but if we feel like we can upgrade a position and we can be better, we’re going to make a play at that. You have to commend an organization for doing that.”

Warner, now an analyst for the NFL Network, does not see the Cardinals as favorites in the Manning sweepstakes.

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