With that many touchdowns, yes, people are going to ask you about fantasy football.

“I redirect the conversation,” Cardinals Pro Bowl running back James Conner said, as he begins training camp following an 18-touchdown season. “I don’t live in a fantasy world. … This is real life.”

If Conner is going to follow up his 2021 with another big TD – 15 rushing, three receiving, second-highest total in the league – season, those same topics are going to keep coming up. For Conner, not only does he think he can get back to 18 touchdowns, “I’m shooting for more.”

“I just want to win ballgames,” Conner said. “Do everything we can (offensively), but it’s very realistic.”

There is a reason the Cardinals re-signed Conner to a three-year contract with $13.5 million in guaranteed money. They believe the 27-year-old can repeat his initial season in the desert, a power runner with surprisingly soft receiving hands who helped the team grind out the short yardage that they had difficulty with the season before.

“He has a nose for the end zone,” coach Kliff Kingsbury said, noting there was an “expectation” to approach another 15 or 18 touchdowns. “We struggled in goal-to-go situations so we have to be better in the passing game down there obviously but any time James touches the ball down there you felt good about him having the opportunity to get in.”

Conner needs to be healthy to reach such lofty TD totals, of course. He noted he’d “try to be available for all 17” when it comes to games, after getting banged up by season’s end. One of the lessons he has learned in his previous five seasons was that he shouldn’t be regular-season ready the first day of training camp.

“It’s a marathon,” he said.

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