NFC West Writer
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Wearing a black T-shirt, black shorts and a black compression sleeve on his injured right leg, Kyler Murray cut a solitary figure jumping rope in neon tennis shoes along the sideline as the Arizona Cardinals practiced here on Wednesday.
Afterward, Murray tossed a handful of passes with a team staffer before heading to a side field for more work.
Seven months removed from ACL knee surgery, Murray remains on Arizona’s physically unable to perform list, with new head coach Jonathan Gannon giving no timeline for when his star quarterback will be cleared to play.
But that doesn’t mean Murray’s teammates aren’t watching his every move.
D.J. Humphries, Murray’s blindside protector, worked side by side with the QB while rehabilitating a season-ending back injury this offseason. So Humphries knows firsthand the diligent work Murray has put in to return from the most significant injury of his football career. Murray even stayed in Arizona to continue his rehab during the five-week break from the end of offseason work in mid-June to the start of training camp at the end of July.
“He’s in a good place,” Humphries told FOX Sports. “The way he’s attacked this thing the whole offseason has been impressive to watch. The O-line usually doesn’t get to see the quarterback work because they go work with a quarterback coach. Then they come back and you see the finished product.
“But watching him work every day this offseason has been impressive for me, especially as an offensive lineman. I was excited to come in and get my rehab during the summer. I hate coming to the facility in the summer because you’re there so long throughout the season. But K1 [Murray] is going to be there, so I’m like, ‘Let me go ahead and get my rehab in.’ Just being in there, seeing him working through something so hard and being able to feed off that, it’s dope to be around.”
Murray, who turned 26 this week, signed a five-year, $230.5 million deal last offseason and then had his worst season as a pro. That was before he suffered a torn ACL in his right knee against the New England Patriots on Dec. 12. Murray underwent surgery 22 days later to repair the ligament.
Will Kyler Murray & Cardinals turn it around this season?
Gannon has not assigned a specific target date for Murray’s return, and the QB is not able to participate on the field. But Murray is getting mental reps, reciting the plays on the sideline as new offensive coordinator Drew Petzing calls the plays.
Murray had previously stated Week 1 as his goal to return. But it would not be surprising for the Cardinals to keep him on the PUP list to start the regular season, meaning he would miss the first four weeks. On the other hand, the Cardinals could put Murray on the 53-man roster to start the season, allowing him to begin work on the field sooner once he is cleared to practice.
Murray said he has spoken with Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, who suffered an ACL injury three years ago and came back strong the following season.
“I wouldn’t want to go out there and hurt the team or hurt myself,” Murray told reporters earlier during training camp. “The advice that I’ve gotten from a lot of people around me is obviously to go when you are ready. Don’t listen to outside noise, don’t feel pressured to come back because of this situation or that situation.
“Whenever you’re ready, you’ll know you are ready. And I think obviously I haven’t dealt with this, but when that time comes, I’ll know.”
With Murray not available, veteran backup Colt McCoy is expected to take on the starting role for the Cardinals. McCoy is slated to play in Arizona’s first 2023 preseason game Friday at State Farm Stadium against the Denver Broncos. Rookie fifth-round selection Clayton Tune has been working mostly with the second group, with Jeff Driskel and David Blough filling out the quarterback room.
When Murray does get back on the field, he’ll be directing a much different offense than the Air Raid system that former Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury brought to the desert. New OC Petzing, a disciple of Cleveland Browns head coach and offensive guru Kevin Stefanski, will have Murray under center more, leaning on the running game and play-action passing with the quarterback on the move.
According to Next Gen Stats, the Browns were under center 40.7% of the time last season, compared to 9% for the Cardinals. Cleveland also ran the ball 47.2% of the time in 2022, while the Cardinals ran the ball 37.7% of the time.
Murray’s teammates look forward to seeing him run the new scheme.
“He’s going to take it to a whole another level,” Marquise “Hollywood” Brown said. “Kyler’s that guy. You put him in any offense, he’s going to raise the level of the offense. However we are looking without him out there, we’re going to look better when he’s out there.”
Added Humphries: “You see us move the ball and it’s like, ‘Yo, Kyler’s not out there.’ We’re doing well and able to do a lot of things, but when you put No. 1 out there, it’s electricity all over the field because he adds another factor.
“I can’t wait to see it.”
Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.
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