Cardinals notebook: Hopkins back in action as fans return to training camp
GLENDALE — There was a heightened level of excitement surrounding Day 4 of the Arizona Cardinals’ training camp on Friday.
For the first time since 2019, fans graced State Farm Stadium’s seats for camp.
They definitely made their presence felt, with numerous players taking time to address fans with smiles, waves and the occasional finger point.
— Tyler Drake (@Tdrake4sports) July 30, 2021
“It was awesome,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Friday. “Any time you can get them back in the building and play in front of them, I think we all understand now what a privilege that is and definitely appreciate it more.”
Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, who connected with multiple receivers for numerous plays during drills, echoed Kingsbury.
“It’s good to have the fans here, felt normal,” Murray said. “Having a year without the fans is definitely tough, it’s weird. I think the team, we got closer because we had to bring our own juice, be there for each other and grind together through a weird situation, a different time.
“But now having the fans back for today — hopefully we keep going forward with this thing, but it was definitely good to have them back.”
For linebacker Devon Kennard, hearing and interacting with fans in the stands was something he missed out on during his return to his home state last season. Now, he’s getting the true full experience.
“It’s awesome, I think I got some of my family and friends coming tomorrow,” Kennard said. “That’s really cool. For me, it’s the first time playing at home — later in the year some family got to go the game, but I didn’t get to really feel like that.
“Even just seeing the fans, there were fans yelling out my name. Got to say ‘hello’ to just random people that knew who I was from being out here. Those were things I was looking forward to last year that I didn’t get to experience.”
Kingsbury: DeAndre Hopkins is ‘good to go’
Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins was one of many who missed Day 3 of training camp on Thursday.
Fast forward to Friday, and the minor issue the wideout was dealing with appears to be in the past.
— Tyler Drake (@Tdrake4sports) July 30, 2021
Making numerous plays Friday, Hopkins didn’t appear to be limited whatsoever.
“He’s good to go,” Kingsbury confirmed Friday after camp.
It’s a good sign for the continue growth of Murray and Hopkins.
Despite having basically no offseason in 2020, the duo quickly found their groove in just their first year together.
Hopkins tied a career mark for receptions with 115 to go along with 1,407 yards (third in NFL) and six touchdowns. He had more targets (160) than Christian Kirk (79) and Larry Fitzgerald (72) combined.
Kingsbury is eager to see what Year 2 can bring, especially with a full offseason to ramp things up.
“I think he and Kyler continue to build a chemistry,” the head coach said. “Like I said all along, they haven’t spent a ton of time together and I think that will just continue to get better.”
Devon Kennard focused on taking it 1 day at a time
Kennard’s return to the Valley in 2020 started off like many had hoped.
Through his first three starts in Cardinal red, the linebacker already had 2.0 sacks, seven tackles and four QB hits.
But just when things were clicking, a calf injury derailed Kennard’s momentum with his new team as he missed back-to-back contests with the ailment.
His return would be short-lived, however, as Kennard was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list after testing positive for the virus during the team’s bye after playing two games.
From there, his snap counts took a hit as the Cardinals added Markus Golden at the trade deadline to help fill the pass-rushing void left behind by Chandler Jones’ season-ending injury.
After being on the field for an average of 63% of defensive snaps through five games played, Kennard played 36% of snaps through his final eight contests.
It was undoubtedly a frustrating season for Kennard, who instead of dwelling on the roller coaster of a year, has flushed 2020 down the toilet, as he would say.
“I just look at this year as a fresh start,” Kennard said Friday. “I feel healthy, I feel really good right now, so taking it one day at a time, locked in on my job, trying to do everything I can the team. Be the best that I can be.”
Kennard figures to back up Golden as the team’s SAM backers yet again this season, but has proven he could garner the brunt of the snaps if called upon.
Before arriving in Arizona, Kennard started in 30 of 31 games played over two seasons with the Detroit Lions. He made 14 sacks, 18 tackles for loss and added 29 QB hits over that span.