Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Cardinals training camp 2022: Kyler Murray’s defense of clause in contract could do more harm than good

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Kyler Murray delivered what had to be his most direct and authoritative press conference of his NFL career Thursday when he had finally had enough.

Enough of the jokes about his “independent study” contract clause. Enough of the slander that he didn’t prepare properly for games.

Ultimately, though, his defense of a rather embarrassing part of his contract may have done more harm than good.

Murray spent nearly 11 minutes explaining his stance in what was a surprise press conference. Only head coach Kliff Kingsbury, J.J. Watt and receiver Antoine Wesley were scheduled to speak before Murray crashed the party and surprised the majority of the press in attendance Thursday morning.

His message was simple: there’s no way that a 5-foot-10 quarterback could have the success at all levels of football he had experienced if he didn’t seriously prepare for games. He talked about his undefeated high school career, his Heisman Trophy, the increasing wins in each successive season in the league and his two Pro Bowls.

“I refuse to let my work ethic, my preparing, to be in question,” Murray said. “I’ve put in an incomprehensible amount of time and blood, sweat, tears and work into what I do, whether it’s football or baseball. People can’t comprehend the amount of time that it takes to do two sports at a high level in college, let alone be the first person to do it ever at my size. It’s funny.”

But what was missing in this defense was the answer to a simple question. If he does study film away from the facility, why was this unprecedented clause ever needed in the first place?

Murray initially declined to answer questions, opting instead to let his statement speak for itself. As the questions rolled in, though, he found himself answering more about the clause before catching himself.

I asked him how the clause could impact his preparation for games heading into his fourth season, if at all.

“No no no. We put in hours and hours of work,” Murray said. “Like I said I’m living out a childhood dream of mine that I don’t take for granted. You never know when your last play is going to be. for people to think that I come out here and disrespect the game in that way, I feel like it would have been caught up with me. I feel like I wouldn’t have gotten this far if I didn’t prepare and watch film like that.”

It’s evident the Cardinals don’t believe Murray puts the time into film study away from the facilities. Teams can track the usage of team tablets that players can take home, and this clause was clearly borne out of the team doing just that with its franchise quarterback. He’s also a player who has admitted, as recently as in December to the New York Times, that he doesn’t watch a lot of film.

“I think I was blessed with the cognitive skills to just go out there and just see it before it happens,” Murray told the paper then. “I’m not one of those guys that’s going to sit there and kill myself watching film. I don’t sit there for 24 hours and break down this team and that team and watch every game because, in my head, I see so much.”

Murray said Thursday he doesn’t regret those comments.

“There are multiple different ways to learn and watch the game,” Murray said. “Like I said, besides the multiple ways, it doesn’t even pertain to football. A lot of people learn at different speeds and you see it in schools. It’s no different when it comes to football. Some people might need to watch 30 hours and some people… it just depends.”

The embarrassment this has caused Murray could very well backfire on the quarterback and the team. The contract negotiations were publicly contentious dating back to the late winter, and though everyone was all smiles at the press conference last week, that was before these contract details were filed for the world to eventually see.

If fences need to be mended and egos need to be tended to, look no further than Kingsbury to be the guy who does that for the Cardinals.

“I have nothing to do with the negotiations, I’m just thrilled that we get to continue our work together,” Kingsbury told me. “But he’s a player that is highly motivated. He wants to be the best. Since he’s come here, that’s been his goal and, um, so I just see each year, every aspect of his game has gotten better. Whether it’s preparation, touchdown percentage, completion percentage, he’s improved in every area and I expect that’d be the same moving forward.”

Camp observations

  • Isaiah Simmons worked almost exclusively with the defensive backs Thursday. The Cardinals used him at eight different positions last year, but really he fits in as the “star” in Vance Joseph’s defense. Arizona feels Simmons, when he’s not rushing the passer, is best used away from the line of scrimmage so he can see the play develop from a slightly greater distance and allow his athleticism and quick-twitch muscles to take over.
  • Second-year linebacker Zaven Collins has to take a big step this season with the team light in that position. For his size — 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds — Collins didn’t play with a great physicality last season. The Cardinals erred in anointing him the starting MLB the moment he was drafted, and that put undue pressure on a youngster coming out of a small school like Tulsa trying to make the transition to the NFL.

  • Kingsbury told me Marquise Brown “should be back sooner than later” with a “minor” hamstring pull that sent him to the Active/PUP list to start camp.

  • Zach Ertz looks like his old self at practice, and I expect him to be heavily involved in the passing game throughout the season — not just in the first six weeks with De’Andre Hopkins out. The Cardinals will mostly be an 11 personnel team, but rookie TE Trey McBride will take some of the blocking pressure off Ertz and let him flourish more in the passing game. “I had a similar situation in Philly,” Ertz said. ”They drafted a tight end in the second round and I had 116 catches. So I like to move around, I like to do my thing out there. But ultimately, it’s about winning football games, and we got a lot of talent in this skill room with myself, AJ, DeAndre, um, Rondale, some of the young guys. So it’s not about volume. I don’t care how many catches I have, how many yards I have. I want to win football games. And whether that’s one catch a game or 10 catches a game, it really doesn’t matter to me.”

  • Fifth-year cornerback Josh Jackson had two interceptions on the day. He picked off Murray in 7-on-7s on an underneath route and later got Colt McCoy in team drills late in practice. 

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