DeAndre Hopkins has missed the last three games for the Cardinals with a hamstring injury, one more than he had missed in his entire career previously and three times as many as he had in any one season.
The wide receiver doesn't usually miss games.
But sitting out for the last month – and still unsure if he will play Sunday in Chicago or not – hasn't been difficult, Hopkins said. Not with his mother and sisters there to support him, and not compared to the rest of his life.
"Football is fun, the sport is fun," Hopkins said Friday. "I've been through a lot more mentally challenging than missing a couple of games.
"And (with us) being the No. 1 seed in the NFL."
Hopkins had a small smile with his last statement. The Cardinals sitting atop the NFL standings matters. Both Hopkins and quarterback Kyler Murray, who has his bad ankle, are not locks to play Sunday. Coach Kliff Kingsbury said both will be evaluated Saturday and Sunday, in what has become the never-ending game of "will they or won't they" when it comes to returning to the lineup.
"There's obviously some cat and mouse with this sport, but a player like (Murray), the position we're in, we were going to be overly cautious the entire time and we still are," Kingsbury said.
Murray at least was on the practice field Friday. Hopkins was not, a move Kingsbury said was only a precaution.
Hopkins last played against the Packers on Oct. 28, already hurting. He did not practice that week (although on a short week, the Cardinals as a team didn't really practice anyway) and played only 15 snaps, famously running back into a few plays after the Cardinals thought he was probably done.
Did that make his injury worse? Hopkins said he doesn't know, but "I don't regret anything about that."
Since then, Kingsbury said he has had in-depth conversations with Hopkins making sure the veteran understands his health is crucial for the Cardinals' playoff run.
"I'm sure game day all that will go out the window," Kingsbury said with a chuckle, "but it was a good talk."
Hopkins, though, says he gets it. He knows he'll be needed for the Cardinals to win playoff games.
Hopkins said he's tried to stay as engaged with the team as possible, attending walkthroughs, watching practice. "I want to be felt," he said. "I'm a leader on this team."
As a leader, Hopkins also praised the receiving corps that has worked in his absence – A.J. Green, Christian Kirk, Rondale Moore, Antoine Wesley.
Kingsbury too complimented each of those players by name, giving Murray backup Colt McCoy a way to win two of three.
"We know Hop is one of the best players in the league and when he comes back he makes a huge impact and teams have to play us differently," Kingsbury said, "but I'm really proud of how that group stepped up."
Maybe they will still need to be the group that performs without Hopkins on Sunday. Even if Hopkins is active, it's hard to gauge if his snaps would be on a pitch count.
Admittedly for Hopkins, that would be better for him that standing on the sideline as he has been, reduced to spectator.
"It's tough," Hopkins said. "I'm a competitor. I want to come on the field. I forget I'm not in my pads sometimes. I want to be out there."
MURPHY ADDED AS QUESTIONABLE; ROBINSON DOUBTFUL FOR BEARS
Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy apparently hurt his foot in practice Friday and will be listed as questionable for Sunday's game.
Guard Justin Pugh (calf) missed practice for a third straight day Friday but Kingsbury said he'd be a game-day decision in Chicago. Safety James Wiggins (knee) was also absent from practice and is out for Sunday.
Bears quarterback Justin Fields (ribs) is doubtful, so Andy Dalton gets the start at QB. The Bears' No. 1 wide receiver Allen Robinson (hamstring) is also doubtful.
Out for the Bears are running back Damien Williams (calf), defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (ankle), defensive end Mario Edwards (ribs), and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (foot/ribs). Linebacker Roquan Smith (hamstring) is questionable.