Kyler Murray’s football career was nearly flawless for the first 25 years of his life: First, he was a Texas high school phenom, then a Heisman Trophy winner, then the No. 1 overall pick for the Arizona Cardinals, then a two-time Pro Bowl selection.
In all those situations, Murray was being compared to other football players.
These days, the competition is with himself.
“This is different,” Murray said. “This is you-on-you. Nobody really knows what you’re going through except for yourself and whoever you’re working out with.”
Murray, who turns 26 on Aug. 7, is working his way back to football relevancy following an underwhelming fourth season that was cut short by a torn ACL in his right knee against the New England Patriots on Dec. 12.
The quarterback acknowledged some tough days after the surgery — nights when it was tough to sleep because of the pain — but said he’s not feeling sorry for himself as he works to get back to the field.
“I get to do what I love every day — play quarterback in the NFL,” Murray said. “Did I get hurt? Yeah. Did I experience something no one wants to experience? Yeah. But it’s nothing for me to get up and work out. I was already doing that before I got hurt.”
Murray’s expected to miss at least a few games of the upcoming season while he continues to recover, and the quarterback watched Saturday’s practice at State Farm Stadium in a gray hooded sweatshirt and long black sleeve over his entire right leg.
His impending return is the hottest topic for the Cardinals during camp, but says he’s not committing to a certain return date.
“I don’t have a timetable,” Murray said.
Murray said he saw Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow at a recent UFC event and the two discussed the perils of an ACL injury. Burrow tore the ACL in his left knee during his rookie season in 2020, but returned to play 16 games in 2021.
“I wouldn’t want to go out there and hurt the team or hurt myself,” Murray said. “The advice that I’ve gotten from a lot of people around me is to go when you’re ready. Don’t listen to outside noise. Don’t feel pressure to come back because of this situation or that situation.
“Whenever you’re ready, you’ll know you’re ready.”
Murray has been very good — at times spectacular — for much of his first four seasons. His uncanny scrambling ability has produced several highlight-reel plays, and he’s got plenty of arm to make all the throws he needs to make.
The apex of his pro career came in 2021, when the Cardinals started the season with a 10-2 record and looked like a Super Bowl favorite. But the franchise collapsed, losing four of the next five games before getting blown out against the Los Angeles Rams in an embarrassing playoff performance.
Will Kyler Murray, Cardinals turn it around in 2023?
With high hopes in 2022, the Cardinals were one of the league’s most disappointing teams, finishing with a 4-13 record. Murray was far from the only reason for those struggles, but also wasn’t blameless, as his performance regressed in several areas.
“It’s not a bad thing to sit back, watch, and try to make this a positive deal,” Murray said. “I feel good. Getting better each and every day, taking one day at a time. Just trying to be there for my teammates and learn as much as possible before I do stuff on the field.”
Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill made big changes after last season’s debacle, bringing in a defensive-minded coach in Jonathan Gannon and a new general manager in Monti Ossenfort. The new regime seems just as smitten with Murray as the previous one — Gannon said one major reason he took the Cardinals job was Murray’s presence.
Murray says he’s excited about what the changes can bring.
The Cardinals have a large monetary interest in making things work: Murray signed a $230.5 million, five-year deal before last offseason that keeps him in the desert until 2028.
“It’s been great so far,” Murray said. “We’re actually establishing a run game. I believe we’ll be able to run the ball a lot better, which will only be a weapon for us. Get under center, mix it up, not be as predictable.”
Veteran Colt McCoy is the Cardinals’ most likely quarterback while Murray continues to recover. The 36-year-old has been the team’s backup for the past two seasons and has a 3-3 record in the six games he’s started.
The other current options are David Blough, who played decently in two starts last season, and Clayton Tune, a rookie fifth-round pick out of Houston.
“To me, whoever is available, we’re trying to put the best guy out there to win football games,” Gannon said. “Obviously, Kyler’s not available right now, but we’ve got a lot of guys who are very capable who I’m excited to see play and compete if he’s not ready to go.”
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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