Kingsbury: ‘It makes no sense’ for Hopkins to be full throttle at end of camp
GLENDALE — The Arizona Cardinals find themselves in a tricky situation with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
With the All-Pro being the team’s No. 1 WR but suspended for the first six games of the regular season, head coach Kliff Kingsbury has to find the right balance of getting Hopkins reps in preseason while also getting other receivers ready in his absence.
So how exactly does the head coach plan on finding that middle ground?
“We want to be really smart with how we use him. He lifts the entire offense when he’s out there,” Kingsbury said Saturday. “He elevates our level of play.
“We saw it statistically when he was in when he was out and just the way he competes, the way he talks trash to the defense — everybody tends to step up when he’s out there. So we want to make sure we’re using that the right way, but it makes no sense for him to be full throttle when we break camp.”
Hopkins will be able to play in all three of the Cardinals’ preseason games but will have to wait until Week 7’s contest against the New Orleans Saints on Thursday Night Football at State Farm Stadium to make his 2022 debut.
And although it’s not out of the ordinary for Hopkins to miss a practice day during the regular season, he will have to find a way to keep ready during the six weeks he will be suspended from all team activities.
“He’s gonna stay in town and work out and train and be ready to roll,” Kingsbury said. “He’s the type of athlete I think that no matter how many days he misses, he can go out there and still do what he does.
“The mental part is huge and then just make sure we don’t just throw him back in there. If he’s not 100% full go that first week — it’s a Thursday night game too, which doesn’t make it easier ’cause you don’t really practice on that type of game week — but I’m sure he’ll be ready to rock.”
Hopkins got some reps in with the first-string offense on Saturday, the first open practice in which Cardinals fans could attend. He spent most of the time in the slot, while A.J. Green and Rondale Moore were on the outside with Marquise “Hollywood” Brown sidelined on the active non-football injury list due to a hamstring injury.
Starting quarterback Kyler Murray (rest), running back James Conner (limited), center Rodney Hudson (veteran’s day) and tackle D.J. Humphries (sick) also had the day off.
“You never know with Hop sometimes, but he’s competitive. So anytime you get him on that field, he wants to go out there and practice, so you got to save him from himself a little bit,” Kingsbury said. “He starts hearing guys talking trash, especially with the fans in the stands.
“He wants to go try and put on a show but we’re going to be smart. Like I said, it’s no good to ramp him up like it’s Week 1 and he’s got two more months to sit. So we’ll see if he can comply over the next couple of weeks.”