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Healthy Kyler Murray A Believer In What Cardinals Can Be

Quarterback gets first full offseason with Gannon and offense

Under the watchful eye of coach Jonathan Gannon, QB Kyler Murray runs with the ball at a recent OTA.
Under the watchful eye of coach Jonathan Gannon, QB Kyler Murray runs with the ball at a recent OTA.

Kyler Murray contemplated his mood, taking a moment to digest where he was at, and where he had been.

The Cardinals quarterback, speaking to the media for the first time since the season finale against the Seahawks, had finally worked a full offseason with Jonathan Gannon's staff. Last season, that was impossible, Murray having torn his ACL in December of 2022. That injury had come in a down year that lead to the coaching change, and right after Murray got a lucrative contract that in itself drew opinions.

Certainly, Murray has to be happier than he's been in a long while.

"It's the natural maturation of life," Murray said, noting the roller-coaster nature of the past few years.

"Going into Year Six, am I excited? Hell yeah, I'm excited. I feel good. Just to be healthy again is a blessing. Yes, I believe in what we can do."

For all the changes the roster has undergone – which are plentiful – and for all the tweaks Gannon has made since his first year as a head coach, the Cardinals still need their QB1 to be potential MVP material. That seems within reach, with a second season in the offseason and some spring/summer days to hone what he already knows.

"In my mind it's my first offseason with him," Gannon said. "We are going into Year Two but this really is Year One offseason where I see him on the field with everybody, weight room with everybody. His game is going to go to another level. I know it is."

Only four teammates remain from Murray's rookie season of 2019, and none on offense – safeties Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson, linebacker Dennis Gardeck, and long snapper Aaron Brewer. For the first time, the other quarterbacks are both younger than Murray.

With this team, "this is the first time I feel like I'm kind of the older guy,' Murray said.

The injured knee is fine, but it is "something I have to stay on" in terms of prep. He acknowledged in the eight games he played last season, it was sore sometimes, and other times the flexion wasn't as good.

That doesn't mean Murray can't be Murray, can't be the QB with the scary threat of running at any moment. That was baked into the offense once Murray came back, and it stands to reason that option will only grow as he and offensive coordinator Drew Petzing have been able to do real field work in recent weeks.

Murray's knowledge of the offense looks like a veteran QB who is in the second year with the playbook. "He sees what is going on and knows his answers," Gannon said, and Murray tried the best he could to describe his comfort level.

"Confidence and understanding where to go with the ball and knowing what (the coaches) are doing, because I have been in the system a year, when you feel like that, the sky is the limit," Murray said. "I've played QB my whole life, and when you're at that point – and I really can't explain it – it's a good feeling."

He's got new weapons like Marvin Harrison Jr. and returning ascending pass catchers like Trey McBride and Michael Wilson. That doesn't even include the running game with James Conner.

His expectation? To win the Super Bowl. "I don't play for any other reason," Murray said, and while it isn't a prediction of any kind, it underscores the drive Murray has always had.

"His will to win matches what I think it should look like," Gannon said. "It's a full-time process, it's a full-time thing that is in his brain."

The offseason has been about work, because that's what Murray likes to do. But, chronicled in part by social media, it's clear Murray has also made the effort to bond with teammates, at one point taking some to Oklahoma for a visit to his alma mater and an NBA playoff game, and another time going to a Diamondbacks baseball game with a handful of co-workers.

"He's a leader," said Conner, one of the Oklahoma travel companions. "I say that because he's coming into it. When I got to Arizona (in 2021) it was kind of, 'Who is the leader here?' Sometimes that's the product of the environment. That's no longer the environment here. He's making the effort to bring the guys close."

Center Hjalte Froholdt – one of the baseball game invitees – was just happy to get an offseason together so he could "feel the rhythm" of snapping to Murray. That didn't happen last offseason, when Froholdt was working as a starting center for the first time in his career himself.

Offseason work is limited in what it can produce. The work done is not true football, not with a lack of pads or contact. But it has value, in both what Murray can improve upon and on his mood. It's a good time to be Kyler.

"It's felt like one of the best offseasons I've had in a long time," he said. "It makes a difference when I'm out there."

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