Let’s predict when Cardinals QB Kyler Murray returns from ACL injury

Oct 17, 2023, 3:11 PM

Kyler Murray looks on...

Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals looks on from the sidelines during the first quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at State Farm Stadium on October 08, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

TEMPE — Six weeks into the NFL season and there have been no public developments when it comes to Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray’s potential return post-ACL tear.

But with each passing week, more and more attention turns to the franchise signal caller and his timeline.

Arizona’s recent offensive regression has only stoked the discussion among those who follow the team.

In an effort to try to find some clarity, Arizona Sports’ Cardinals reporter Tyler Drake and editor Kevin Zimmerman attempt to connect the tea leaves, however few there may be:

When do we think Kyler Murray returns from his ACL tear?

Drake: This is very much a two-part question, Kevin.

Activating Murray off the physically unable to perform list before the season ends is the ultimate goal, but there’s still the factor of opening up the signal caller’s 21-day practice window with a designation to return off the PUP list.

I’ve predicted all along that Murray would be back playing NFL games by Arizona’s Week 8 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens.

But given we’re heading into Week 7 and Murray has yet to be activated, that prediction is all but dead at this point in my opinion.

There’s no way Arizona would throw Murray back into the mix with only a few days of practice under his belt.

As we’ve seen with rookie cornerback Garrett Williams, who suffered a torn ACL in his final college season and was only recently designated to return, the Cardinals aren’t about to rush things now just because a player is one step closer to returning.

Regardless of how much a player prepares during a long layoff like Murray’s, getting back to football shape only happens when you’re actually getting in football activities alongside your teammates.

With that thinking and where we’re at in the season, I’m tweaking my prediction for Murray’s designation to return either this week (!) or next.

As for when he finally gets activated, I’m turning my attention to a Week 10 home matchup against the Atlanta Falcons.

What say you, KZ?

Zimmerman: My prediction for that Nov. 12 game against Atlanta remains in play and a solid place to begin.

That means a designated to return switch-flip could come after this week’s game against the Seattle Seahawks. To me it made all the sense in the world for Murray to play, even when we are talking about the Caleb Williams draft possibilities. The Cardinals either needed to give Murray a reason to boost his trade stock or time in the offense to get comfy before he’s again lined up as the franchise face next year.

But right now reality is making me nervous. As much as the Cardinals are watchable, not frustrating and even a little fun through a 1-5 start, the talent deficit head coach Jonathan Gannon is working with is becoming evident.

Is there a world where Murray is designated to return, the injuries keep piling up and Arizona at some point says “no way, Jose” to putting him in a situation where he’ll fail and quite possibly get hurt?

I think as long as the the offensive line remains healthy and the weapons stay healthy, he’s got to see playing time.

Do you see any chance the team is treating this with a wait-and-see attitude simply to protect the man?

Drake: There is a world, but I think it’s a last resort.

At the end of the day, it’s imperative that Murray plays in 2023. It would mean the team gets some kind of look at the QB post-ACL tear and that could go a long way into how Arizona approaches the 2024 NFL Draft with what many expect to be a top-five pick.

But if the offensive line begins to wear, a case can be made as to whether or not the signal caller and the franchise should risk the higher chance of injury just to get a few games under his belt that, if we’re being honest, aren’t going to matter much in the overall vision Arizona has laid out.

These things definitely have to be taken into account, regardless of how important it is to see Murray take the field.

And since you mentioned a certain USC quarterback, what’s your take on the Williams sweepstakes six weeks into the regular season? Should the Cardinals be in it or not?

I still think he’s up there as a No. 1 pick, but the lead he had over others took a shot with last week’s dismal performance.

As for whether or not the Cardinals are even in play for the top spot is a whole other discussion given how bad the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers have looked. It could take some more wheeling and dealing from general manager Monti Ossenfort to even be in a position to nab Williams.

Zimmerman: There are eight other teams who have won either one or two games so far this year. The Cardinals are outplaying their talent and still sitting at 1-5 on the year.

Of those teams, they have the most difficult remaining schedule, per the Associated Press.

So to answer your question, of course the Cardinals have to consider adding a generational talent. Though I am not super sold on Williams as a generational talent, I am sold that he will be the No. 1 pick even if he keeps stumbling on a flawed USC team.

Arizona would be silly not to consider its options, even if I think Murray doesn’t get enough credit for already being a top-15 NFL quarterback even in his worst moments.

If we’re talking a timeline of weeks in which Murray returns to the practice field and the Cardinals like what they see once he’s there, there are still all the reasons in the world to see him compete, setting the tone for this new regime. It would begin the uphill battle facing him for factors mostly out of his control: for getting paid, functioning as an NFL quarterback somehow under bad circumstances around him in his first several seasons — we don’t talk enough about that — and turning around the video-games-over-film-study narrative.

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