As Kliff Kingsbury and Kyler Murray embarked on their second training camp together this week, the coach and quarterback discussed what could have been – or not could have been – had the coronavirus come along just a bit earlier on the timeline.
Murray was drafted by the Oakland A's and signed a baseball contract before playing his Heisman Trophy-winning season at Oklahoma, the lone full season Murray got as a college starter. And if COVID-19 had derailed that football season for Murray?
"He wouldn't have waited for another college football season, I can tell you that much," Kingsbury said, after the two talked about the subject Tuesday.
Murray is coming off his NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year season even after the A's made him a top 10 draft pick. It was a choice that garnered a ton of attention at the time, and it's even more eye-opening with the potential of many NFL hopefuls losing their college season in 2020 because of COVID-19.
A Murray-less Cardinals roster is not something Kingsbury would really want to consider, although his conversation with Murray "puts some real-life scenarios" on how the coronavirus could've impacted the roster, he said.
"It's good fortune," Kingsbury added. "I saw where (No. 1 overall pick) Joe Burrow tweeted had he not had his senior year he'd be looking for a job. Everything happens for a reason, and I definitely feel blessed (Kyler) was able to play that year and we were able to get him."
IN KINGSBURY'S SPOTLIGHT – THINK DEFENSE
Kingsbury is of course going to be keeping an eye on the entire roster during camp, but given a chance to specify three spots in particular he'll be watching, the offensive-minded head coach provided three defensive examples.
First was cornerback Robert Alford, who missed all of 2019 after breaking his leg in training camp last season.
"From what VJ (defensive coordinator Vance Joseph) wants to run schematically, I want to see how he is moving around," Kingsbury said. "We're pulling for him."
The other two are the inside linebacker spot – where the additions of De'Vondre Campbell, Isaiah Simmons, and Evan Weaver make it a "group that looks completely different," Kingsbury said – and the defensive line, which has also gone through significant change and potential upgrade.
"Now we have to go on the field and show it," Kingsbury said.
VOICES MATTER ON THE FIELD
The Cardinals went through their first practice at State Farm Stadium Wednesday – a workout under offseason rules, where offense and defense could not yet face off – as the team continued to play catch-up from what was lost over the summer.
But linebacker Devon Kennard, in his first year with the Cards, said Joseph did a good job going beyond the playbook during virtual meetings to ease the transition. Hearing linebacker Jordan Hicks call out plays or the defensive backs call out coverages provides more than just x's and o's.
"Just to get familiar with each other's voices," Kennard said. "When it's (watching) video all the time, that's something that can get lost just looking at a playbook. That's not really football. Those virtual walkthroughs, he called them, that was really helpful. For me being a new guy and a new scheme, hearing that was cool."
Images from Monday's walkthrough practice at State Farm Stadium, presented by Hyundai.