Kyler Murray has taken a positive step toward his return for the Arizona Cardinals.
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“He’s just gotten better each day, so we shall see how he progresses,” he said.
When asked whether he expects to play in Seattle, Murray told reporters: “I hope so.”
“If I can play, I’ll play,” he said, adding that he’s “pretty close” to feeling ready to go.
“I’ve made crazy progress. I’m way further along than I thought I would be,” Murray said.
Murray’s participation in the open portion of practice is a positive sign for the banged-up Cardinals (8-2), who’ve played the past two games without their Pro Bowl QB. Murray has been sidelined since injuring his ankle in the final moments of the Cardinals’ 24-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers on October 28.
Murray’s status has been a game-time decision the past two weeks, and other than walkthroughs, he hadn’t practiced with the team until Friday, November 12.
“I like how he moved today, but we’ve got to make sure he’s comfortable,” Kingsbury said. “I’ve been hopeful each week that he could kind of turn the corner on it, and (he) hasn’t yet completely, but hopefully this is the week.”
Arizona has lost two of its past three games after starting the season 7-0, and its offense definitely could use a spark from Murray. The Cardinals were held to just 169 total yards — the fewest in Kingsbury’s three seasons with the team — in the lopsided 34-10 loss at home to the Carolina Panthers.
“It was an unfortunate loss for us,” Murray said. “I’m not really too worried about last week. That’s over with. As a team, I know we’re going to move on from that, flush it, and we’ll be better because of it.”
While Murray was moving well on his injured ankle, backup QB Colt McCoy wasn’t throwing during the open part of practice as he recovers from a pectoral injury, according to Arizona Sports’ Tyler Drake.
Kingsbury said McCoy was limited in practice, and he will continue to be evaluated throughout the week.
McCoy struggled against the Panthers, completing 11 of 20 passes for just 107 yards and turning the ball over twice (a fumble and an interception) before leaving the game in the third quarter with a pectoral injury.
Coach & QB ‘Tied to Each Other Forever’
Kingsbury and Murray also talked about their relationship and how their NFL careers are forever linked.
Kingsbury compared it to the relationship between director and actor.
“I’m not talking down to him,” the coach said. “We’re talking on the same level. I want to hear his thoughts … We’re in this thing together. We signed up together as much as any duo ever probably in the history of the NFL the way this thing has played out. We know we’re tied to each other forever, and we just want to make this thing work.”
Kingsbury has been a fan of Murray since the QB’s high school days, famously stating while head coach at Texas Tech that the Oklahoma star should be the No. 1 pick of the 2019 NFL Draft.
As it turned out, Kingsbury was in position to be part of that decision as head coach of the Cardinals after being fired by his alma mater.
“He’s always felt that way about my game ever since high school,” Murray said. “He came and visited me, always hit me up Twitter, just recruiting me and stuff like that. I always knew how he felt about my game, even though I was at Oklahoma and he was at Tech.”
Kingsbury praised Murray for the way he’s dealt with adversity since coming into the league, including the Cardinals’ 5-10-1 record his rookie season and stumbling down the stretch to an 8-8 finish in his second year.
“I think the biggest thing I take pride in is just the way he’s handled it,” he said. “He’d never lost before getting here. To kind of battle through that, continue to progress, continue to not let it get him down and get where he’s at and where he’s trending right now, it’s cool to see.”
Murray said he looks forward to what he and Kingsbury can accomplish together.
“If we do what we do and what we’re capable of doing, I’ll assume we’ll be here for a while,” he said.
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Limping to the Bye Week
Following a trip to Seattle, the Cardinals have a bye in Week 12 before facing the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 5.
That will give the Cardinals some much-needed rest and recovery time before resuming their run toward the playoffs. Arizona, which hasn’t made the playoffs since the 2015 season, currently hold the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
To stay there, the Cardinals need their biggest stars to get healthy.
Like Murray, Pro Bowl wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury. Hopkins wasn’t practicing with the team Wednesday, November 17, but he generally takes Wednesdays off.
“He’s the best receiver in the league,” Murray said. “I said the other day, I miss watching him. … To be on the sideline and not be able to watch him do what he does, you just miss his presence out there.”
Neither Murray nor Hopkins are used to missing games. Murray had started every game of his NFL career until sitting out vs. the San Francisco 49ers in Week 9, and Hopkins had only missed two games in his first eight seasons in the league.
“Those are two of the best players in the league,” Kingsbury said. “There are things (opponents) have to do to try and account for both guys, whether it is Kyler in the quarterback-run game each and every time he’s handing the ball off, or Hop in any type of one-on-one situation. You’re going to get played different when those guys aren’t out there, that’s for sure.”