TEMPE, Ariz. — Coming off a second consecutive late-season collapse followed by a blowout loss in the NFC wild-card round last season, the Arizona Cardinals reported to voluntary organized team activities in late May knowing they had work to do.
Arizona knew it couldn’t fix all its issues instantly. But it set out to rectify its football transgressions largely without quarterback Kyler Murray, who reported for one of three voluntary OTAs and the mandatory minicamp.
Murray’s teammates didn’t mind. They understood the fourth-year quarterback, who’s embroiled in contract negotiations, didn’t have to show up during OTAs. And, by and large, they supported him because, they said, they understand there’s a business side to football.
“That’s my quarterback,” left tackle D.J. Humphries said. “I saw a quote the other day that was like, ‘Have you seen the organization before he got here?’ And, I mean, I was here with Carson [Palmer], so obviously, I’ve seen greatness, but I mean that statement is not a lie.
“If you think that Kyler is not our future, you are a plum fool. There’s no question of that.”
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Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury diverted questions about why Murray chose to attend certain practices and not others back to the quarterback, and Murray did not address the media this offseason. But Kingsbury did say the key to Arizona fixing last year’s issues was rooted in the scheme. Arizona was able to make tweaks, adjustments and additions to its scheme with backup quarterback Colt McCoy when Murray wasn’t at practice.
“He and Kyler obviously have a great relationship and they can talk through things and work through things and get things that maybe were cloudy last year or they didn’t like as a unit sorted out during this time,” Kingsbury said.
The setup has worked, according to Kingsbury. He has been able to get input from Murray throughout the offseason.
“I don’t think we’ve missed too much,” Kingsbury said.
Not having Murray around for two of the four weeks of practice didn’t put a dent in building camaraderie either, Kingsbury said. Having two consecutive offseasons altered by COVID prepared Arizona for building cohesiveness without everyone in person.
“Not having an offseason the last two years, I think guys that are used to that,” Kingsbury said. “I mean, there’s a few guys that train on their own and do those certain things and people understand that, so I don’t see it as being as big of an issue.
“Once you get to training camp, there’s plenty of time to bond and come together.”
Every player has his own approach to the voluntary workouts, defensive lineman J.J. Watt said.
“Being here with the guys at OTAs, I think that being on the field is extremely valuable, because I don’t think you can get better at football without playing football,” Watt said. “And, so, taking advantage of every single opportunity, taking advantage of every rep, all the individual drills and everything, and the camaraderie and getting the guys together, I think for me, personally, is very big.”
Humphries was taught earlier in his career by former NFL offensive lineman Andre Smith to not let the league surprise him.
“Certain stuff gotta go a certain way for both parties to be happy and they’ll figure it,” he said. “I stay out of stuff like that. I don’t want nobody in my business when I’m talking about stuff. I support my guy all the way though.”
When Murray was on the field, running back James Conner said he looked like the same old Murray.
“He was here for a little bit throwing an excellent ball,” Conner said, “so we know come game time, he’ll be ready.”