Cardinals QB Kyler Murray adapts, grows in unprecedented offseason

Jun 17, 2020, 4:34 PM | Updated: 4:38 pm
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) runs for a touchdown as Los Angeles Rams outside lin...
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) runs for a touchdown as Los Angeles Rams outside linebacker Samson Ebukam looks on during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray was fearless to a fault during his rookie season.

He tested the speed of NFL pass-rushers, taking 48 sacks — i.e. too many — that often were pinned as faults of his offensive linemen. As he grew comfortable, the sub-6-foot first overall pick shed doubters like he began shedding would-be tacklers.

But as a person and the franchise face, it understandably took awhile to open up.

On a Wednesday Zoom call, his first offseason session with reporters, Murray’s comfort showed in how he answered questions about football-related topics and otherwise. Much of his half-hour of time was spent talking about racism and speaking out for change in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in police custody.

Murray said it was on people to hold others around them accountable. He said it’s not enough to not be racist — people need to be “anti-racist.”

As a black and Korean quarterback known last offseason for being a little bit reserved in media gatherings, Murray spoke with conviction about a number of topics, adding he doesn’t care what others think about his opinions. Unprompted, Murray suggested he would use the National Anthem to protest police brutality and racism in the United States.

“I stand for what’s right, I always have,” he said. “What’s been happening is definitely wrong. As far as like kneeling and stuff like that, I’m with what’s right and I always will be.”

Asked later to clarify if he would be kneeling, Murray said this: “I’ll be kneeling. I stand for what’s right. That’s the bottom line. I call it like I see it. I’ll definitely be taking a knee.”

The Cardinals have yet to discuss as a team what they’d do, but it seems Murray’s voice might have some pull.

Entering his second season, he is no doubt the franchise quarterback, and expectations are sky-high despite a remote offseason caused by the coronavirus.

“I can definitely sense a comfort level with Kyler,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said just more than week ago. “We would all love to have been on the grass some getting the hundreds of reps he would have gotten, but just talking through film with him, listening to the way he’s seeing the game now, his understanding of concepts, he’s definitely taken a step in that area. That’s all we can hope for right now.”

Murray said this offseason of remote work has not gotten in the way of his progression. He feels good about making a significant step forward in 2020.

Without practice film to watch, combing through 16 games of Arizona’s “mediocre” drop-back passing game, in his words, wasn’t a ton of fun. It was also probably motivating.

“I tell people all the time I was built for the quarantine life,” he said.

“I didn’t mind it just ’cause sitting down getting to watch it, I learn football any type of way. Whether we’re out on the field or watching it, I’m still watching it … Sometimes it sucks watching it because we looked so bad sometimes. ‘What was I doing or why was I doing this?'”

Like past offseasons, Murray worked out with his dad, Kevin, at home in Texas, where he hasn’t had trouble finding receivers to throw to. Four times a week, he’d lift with running in between. Murray said he tried not to overuse his arm.

When team meetings began remotely, Murray said he progressed compared to a year ago, when he was inserted as the starter without taking an NFL snap. After throwing for 3,722 yards with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last year, the game has slowed down.

“I think just seeing the defense, seeing the field, recognizing what they were trying to do to me, us. Beginning of the year, (I was) kind of winging it,” he said. “Things were moving a lot faster than before. Toward the end of the season, I could dissect, diagnose things before they happened.”

When Murray wasn’t diving into football work, he spent time taking care of his new dog, playing board games with his family and, according to his Twitch account, streaming a few video games.

“I feel like I have a son of my own,” he said, adding that the dog is not named after D.J. Humphries as the left tackle suggested on Monday.

Now Murray awaits a to-be-decided training camp schedule. Whenever that is, he’ll be hitting the field with a group of mostly the same teammates as a year ago, save for receiver DeAndre Hopkins. The thought is that Murray being a year older and entering a familiar situation should go a long way.

Said Humphries on Monday: “I think the thing he’s doing himself is kind of becoming himself, realizing that he can be Kyler Murray and not have to try to stand up in the light and be this guy.”

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