What’s next for Kyler Murray in his return back to Cardinals’ starting lineup?
Oct 18, 2023, 3:05 PM | Updated: 3:08 pm
TEMPE — Wednesday marked a monumental day for Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray.
For the first time since December 2022, Arizona’s franchise signal caller was back on the practice field resuming football activities nearly nine months removed from a torn ACL.
— Tyler Drake (@Tdrake4sports) October 18, 2023
It’s a massive step in the right direction that both he and the organization have been waiting for ever since he came out of surgery and a plan of attack was put forward.
Now, the clock starts for his eventual return on Sundays.
“I’m very curious (with where he’s at recovery-wise) but I know the work that he’s put in,” head coach Jonathan Gannon said Wednesday. “The people that have helped him get to this point you can’t praise enough. The whole medical staff and all the performance staff and the doctors. … I know he’s excited to get out there and start playing some football.”
With Murray back practicing, his three-week practice window where he can be activated at any time has officially opened.
Not only does Murray have to get into game shape, though, he also has to catch up offensively having not taken a rep in coordinator Drew Petzing’s new offense until this week while not impacting the game plan set forth for the week.
It’s a tightrope Petzing and the rest of the team has to walk. It’s also similar to the one the OC walked when Deshaun Watson was returning from an 11-game suspension in Petzing’s final season with the Cleveland Browns.
“It creates a unique situation because he hasn’t had any reps from that standpoint,” Petzing said Tuesday. “He’s done a great job of locking in the meeting room, asking questions, but there’s going to be a learning curve there. It’s not going to be hit the ground running the first day you’re on the field. Certainly, that’s something I’ve talked to him about, I’ve talked to the offense about.
“Even if we were in the same offense, there would be a learning curve. When you haven’t done something in a long time, there’s going to be some rust to knock off. The pace of the game no matter what you prepare for in practice is always going to be different when you hit the field on Sunday. That’s something we’ve got to prepare for mentally, he’s got to get ready for it mentally and I think we put a plan in place to do that.”
We saw an example of that during the open portion of Wednesday’s practice, as Murray worked almost exclusively with practice squad members and backups on one side of the field.
— Tyler Drake (@Tdrake4sports) October 18, 2023
Quarterbacks Joshua Dobbs and Clayton Tune on the other hand worked with members more important to the offensive operation for the week.
Without taking away snaps from the other two, Murray was still able to get the proper work in as he begins his on-the-field indoctrination of the offense.
“It’s a combination of, the guy that’s playing in the game has got to get ready to go. That’s priority No. 1 and always will be,” Petzing said. “But there’s extra time in the day, there’s down times during practice … so he feels like he’s getting those reps and ready to go. A lot of that’s done with the backup during the week right now.”
When does Kyler Murray return?
The earliest the QB can return to action is this week against the Seattle Seahawks.
The Seattle game seems like a pipe dream at this point in time, especially given his limited practice reps and not trying to put too much on his plate at once.
With Week 7 effectively out of the running, the attention turns to any of the Baltimore Ravens in Week 8, Cleveland Browns in Week 9 and Atlanta Falcons in Week 10.
Of those three, the softest landing spots for a Murray return would come against the Ravens and Falcons, a pair of home games out of the elements.
The two teams also don’t boast the No. 1 defense in passing yards (121.4 per game) and total yards (200.4) allowed like the Browns do, though the Ravens (163 and 260) and Falcons (179.2 and 278.2) aren’t that far behind at. They also don’t feature crossover specialist and game plan wrecker Myles Garrett on their rosters.
But can Murray do enough in six days of practice to warrant a return by Week 8?
As we’ve seen with rookie cornerback Garrett Williams, who is also coming off a torn ACL from the year prior, Arizona has been in no rush to bring him back. Despite being designated to return on Oct. 4, the 2023 third-rounder has yet to be activated and is in his final week of his practice window.
Unless Murray proves he is up to speed and can handle the physical and mental side of live NFL action two weeks removed from returning to practice — which could happen — it seems like all signs point to the Falcons game providing the best of both worlds for the QB and franchise.
Atlanta’s defense is the worst among the other two matchups and the Week 10 matchup gives Murray a full three weeks of practice before his activation would have to happen.
And as for who will make the final call?
“That’s an organizational decision, but he’s a big part of that,” Gannon said Wednesday.