Kyler Murray claimed ignorance, saying he didn’t know he was the favorite for NFL offensive rookie of the year or even that he has been hyped by many since training camp has started.
Sure, there are times when he is eating with teammates at dinner in the hotel the Cardinals are holed up in during camp and the TV in the background plays out a Murray highlight package. Other than that, Murray insists he doesn’t pay attention.
He is a rookie quarterback in a league where growing pains are inevitable for a rookie quarterback. Even if he is good, he won’t be good all the time.
“I’ve got to go out and play well, and if I don’t, people are going to be mad, I’m going to be mad, everyone is going to be mad,” Murray said with both a smile and self-awareness. “My focus is to play well.”
At a recent practice, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim watched his team work as he has since they arrived. He is as impressed with Murray as anyone, as he figured he would be from the time they drafted him.
But – and it’s a natural hesitation – Keim knows reality too.
“I just think you have to temper your enthusiasm,” Keim said. “He’s made so many wild plays and he’s done so many exciting things at camp so far, you just want to make sure we’re not getting ahead of ourselves. That we’re making sure he is staying with his fundamentals, that he’s playing within the offense, everybody is on the same page.
“But in terms of his physical skillset and some of the things he can do to make this offense explosive, there is no doubt, in my opinion, he is as good as advertised.”
The offense didn’t have its best day Thursday, and Murray allowed that camp has become somewhat monotonous (although when asked whether he felt these were the “dog days” of camp, Murray wasn’t familiar with that particular phrase.)
However he did talk about being able to focus on football all the time rather than juggle that with school, as he had in college. He even said he liked the challenge of tighter passing windows in the NFL, that it “makes it fun.”
“In college, dudes would be wide open and it’d be easy,” Murray said.
Those aren’t words of a player concerned about making anyone mad with poor play. Seeing him live on a daily basis, most anyone is going to have optimism.
“The ball comes out of his hand a little different and the ball makes a little different sound,” Keim said. “Generally when that happens, it gives you great reason to think he’s got special skills.”
Expectations will only be overwhelming if Murray lets them be, but there will be expectations nonetheless. ESPN and NFL Network cameras will be regular visitors. Whatever Murray does, it will be chronicled.
“You can’t control that narrative,” coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “I understand that he’s the first pick and he is a dynamic talent. As a coach, you understand there will be ups and downs and he is a young player, and we are going to deal with adversity. But in today’s society, that’s what you’re going to get.”
Images from practice on Thursday afternoon at State Farm Stadium