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As OTAs begin, Cardinals Work With Who Is Here

Kyler Murray not only player absent for voluntary work

Wide receiver A.J. Green makes a catch during Monday's OTA.
Wide receiver A.J. Green makes a catch during Monday's OTA.

Zach Ertz participated in the Cardinals' first organized team activity Monday with the Cardinals.

Last offseason, his future with the Philadelphia Eagles uncertain, he skipped the OTAs, voluntary as they are.

So the tight end understands not everyone is going to attend such workouts – quarterback Kyler Murray, not unexpected with his desire for a new contract, was one of the multiple players absent Monday – and that is just part of every offseason.

"I wish we had 100 percent attendance but at the end of the day, this year, my situation is very straightforward," Ertz said. "I've also been in the situation when it wasn't a good situation for me to be at OTAs, so I empathize with everyone."

"The guys who aren't here," Ertz added, "are still working their butt off."

Indeed, running back Eno Benjamin said players have been with Murray during this offseason in Murray's home in the Dallas area, throwing and working on the game. And coach Kliff Kingsbury said he and the coaching staff had talked to every player at the outset of the offseason about "what their offseason schedule was like and when we expect them back."

Kingsbury said he expects Murray to return for mandatory minicamp, which runs June 14-16.

Asked if he was looking forward to seeing Murray and new receiver Marquise "Hollywood" Brown together – Brown was also absent, although he's previously attended some of the Phase 2 work – Kingsbury smiled.

"I've seen them together live and in person on the other team and it was not fun for me," Kingsbury said, alluding to his Texas Tech days when the duo played for Oklahoma.

"As a coach, you want to have these guys here all the time but it's not how the rules are set up," Kingsbury added. "Different guys handle it different ways."

The way players approach the voluntary work has morphed some. Safety Budda Baker has been here often – "Now that I am one of the leaders on the team I definitely want to do that because it helps the younger guys kind of get a head start," he said of showing up – but there have been a number of other veterans aside from Murray who have spent the time working away from Tempe. That included on Monday four offensive line starters from 2021 – D.J. Humphries, Justin Pugh, Rodney Hudson and Kelvin Beachum.

The NFL Players Association made a push last offseason reminding veterans especially they have earned the time away if they so choose. Players like Deebo Samuel and Aaron Donald are among the others who have not yet participated in OTAs.

Last year, with Covid still hanging over players' heads more intensely than now, many veterans didn't take part in OTAs either, including Murray, even before his contract concerns.

Ertz said he just wanted to support teammates in however they wanted to prepare, just as he did last year. Baker said he knows wherever Murray is, he is working toward the 2022 season.

"I know when he gets here he will be ready," Baker said.

Images from the Cardinals' first OTA of the 2022 offseason

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