DAN BICKLEY

Kyler Murray is talking baseball despite incomplete football resume

Feb 2, 2021, 7:00 PM | Updated: 9:14 pm
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) throws against the Buffalo Bills during the first ha...
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) throws against the Buffalo Bills during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Super Bowl week is here and Kyler Murray is talking. He’s appearing on all the big national shows. He’s saying some interesting things.

For instance, he seems to miss baseball. More than I want to hear.

“I would love to (play both sports),” Murray told The Pat McAfee Show.

Imagine that.

“I think it’s still there,” he said of his baseball prowess. “I’ve been doing it my whole life. Didn’t have to turn it off to be elite at football.”

Personally, I would love to see Murray attempt to become America’s next iconic two-sport athlete, just like Bo Jackson, Deion Sanders and Danny Ainge. But not yet. Not unless he can play for the Diamondbacks, where his moonlighting helps another Arizona franchise and not a team in Northern California.

Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen. Here’s why:

Three years ago, the A’s signed Murray to a $4.66 million contract. They permitted him to play college football at Oklahoma, where he won the Heisman Trophy; ascended to the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft; and chose not to report to the A’s in the spring of 2019.

Murray returned $1.29 million of his $1.5 signing bonus to the A’s, forfeiting the rest of the baseball contract. Oakland ended up wasting the No. 9 overall pick on a player who gave them nothing in return, not even a compensatory pick. So:

If Murray chooses a return to baseball, he’s property of the A’s.

“It was hard for me to tell (the A’s) I’m not coming to play for them,” Murray told The Dan Patrick Show.

The Cardinals didn’t make the same mistake. They signed him to a four-year contract with a club option for Year 5, a contract that expressly forbids him to take part in any baseball-related activities.

Murray has steadfastly insisted that football is his first love, even if his body language occasionally suggests otherwise. During his slate of national appearances over the past two days, he sounded encouraged about his football future. He spoke of the Cardinals with perfect clarity.

He said the 2020 team was erratic and undisciplined, too content with letting little things slide. He knows the Cardinals need to take a quantum leap forward in attitude and pedigree, especially after watching the Rams acquire veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford.

“I think we play in the toughest division in the NFL, and it’s only getting tougher,” he said. “So the urgency has to be super high.”

Murray has reviewed his own performance in 2020 and says he needs to do a lot better, especially when taking care of the football. But he defended his leadership qualities.

“I just think when the guys see how hard you work, how much you love the game, I think it’s easy to play for a guy and want to win for a guy like that,” Murray told Pro Football Talk Live. “I just put my all into the game. Like I said, they see that and they respect that. And they understand that I’m the quarterback. Sometimes when you mess up, you’re going to get yelled at all. I think we are all just trying to win. If we have to go at it every once in a while, it is what it is.”

That sounds encouraging. But do teammates really feel that way about Murray, especially after what went down in Los Angeles in Week 17?

We’ll see.

Truth is, Murray also has plenty of critics who still think he’s too small; that he acts more like a baseball player (insulated, lone wolf) than a football player (like Josh Allen, who is beloved by his teammates and would dive headfirst into a ceiling fan); that his lack of comfort in the NFL will eventually pave his return to Major League Baseball. If he has to choose between the sports.

Maybe the Cardinals will allow him attempt both sports in the future. But not anytime soon. Not until he becomes a polished NFL quarterback, and he’s simply too raw at the moment. The position is too all-encompassing. A running back (Jackson) or a cornerback (Sanders) can pull off dual-threat careers, but a quarterback must put in hours that stretch well beyond the practice facility.

Surely, you remember the homework assignments Bruce Arians handed to Carson Palmer, making him responsible for a game plan that featured 171 plays?

Playing quarterback isn’t just a job. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a love affair. It’s an obsession. It’s the greatest, hardest job in the world. And those blessed to do it at the highest level never seem to yearn for something else.

Like playing baseball.

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