Since then, Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury says he’s had a few chats with Hopkins to make sure his star receiver understands the importance of having him healthy.
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“We had some in-depth conversations about what he means to our offense, how teams have to play us differently, and the impact he can have on this stretch run,” Kingsbury told reporters Friday, December 3.
“I’m sure game day all that will go out the window,” he said, “but it was a good talk.”
Kingsbury said the Cardinals will be “very cautious” with Hopkins against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, December 5. The four-time Pro Bowl receiver has been sidelined the past three games with a hamstring injury and will be game-time decision in Chicago.
“We’re just being smart,” Kingsbury said. “We want to make sure he feels really good for the stretch run. So we’ll see how he progresses, run him on Sunday and see if he can go.”
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No Regrets, No Rust
Hopkins hasn’t played since the Cardinals’ 24-21 loss to the Packers in Week 8. He was listed as questionable for that game with a hamstring injury and only played 15 snaps.
It was more than coaches intended for him to play, but Hopkins had other ideas and made a few surprise appearances against the Packers.
“I don’t regret anything about that,” said Hopkins, who practiced earlier in the week but sat out Friday, December 3, before speaking to reporters.
Now in his ninth NFL season, Hopkins has missed more games this year than his previous eight seasons combined. He played all 16 games for the Cardinals last year and missed only two games (one each in 2017 and 2019) in his seven seasons with the Houston Texans.
Hopkins said the time off and rest have been helpful, and he’s hopeful to make his return against the Bears (4-7). But he also understands the importance of being healthy as the Cardinals (9-2) look to end a five-year playoff drought.
“I’ve been what you’d consider a No. 1 receiver for a while,” he said. “I know the impact my presence has out there, just the way coverages rotate toward me, and you’re going to leave guys one-on-one.”
Regardless of whether he’s able to play in Chicago, Hopkins said he’s not worried about being rusty after missing nearly a month of action — both practice and games.
“I know what I can do out there when I’m healthy,” he said. “I’ll go out there and do my best to help this team win.”
Hopeful Outlook for Kyler Murray
Like Hopkins, quarterback Kyler Murray will be a game-time decision against the Bears, Kingsbury said.
“He’s practiced and has done better this week, so I’m hoping that he’ll feel good on Sunday and be ready to roll,” he said.
Murray has been sidelined since injuring his ankle in the final moments of the Cardinals’ loss to the Packers. Kingsbury also confirmed the injury as a high ankle sprain, which he said can be “tricky.”
He also acknowledged that there’s some “cat and mouse” involved with making game-time decisions to keep opponents guessing. That said, those decisions have been made with the big picture in mind, Kingsbury said.
“With a player like him [and] the position we’re in, we were going to be overly cautious this entire time, and we still are,” he said. “We want to make sure, when we get him back, he’s playing at a high level and he can’t re-injure it to a point that we lose him for a substantial amount of time.”
In other injury news, cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. injured his foot in practice Friday, December 3, and is listed as questionable against the Bears. Offensive lineman Justin Pugh (calf) also will be a game-time decision.