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Kliff Kingsbury Has Bears On His Post-Bye Mind

Coach focused on next game, not job rumor

Coach Kliff Kingsbury fistbumps GM Steve Keim as VP of Pro Personnel Adrian Wilson looks on following the team's win at Jacksonville earlier this season.
Coach Kliff Kingsbury fistbumps GM Steve Keim as VP of Pro Personnel Adrian Wilson looks on following the team's win at Jacksonville earlier this season.

Kliff Kingsbury spent Sunday holed up in his movie room at home "off the grid," breaking down some football video and catching some of the other NFL action going on, but also binge-watching "Queen of the South."

"Late to the game on it, but one of those you can't stop watching," the Cardinals' coach said.

So when Adam Schefter put on Twitter that Kingsbury was among the desired candidates for the suddenly vacant Oklahoma University football job on Sunday afternoon, Kingsbury said he wasn't affected at all. He added Monday that his focus has been on the Chicago Bears, whom the Cardinals play on the road this week coming out of their bye. Kingsbury is under contract through 2022, with a team option for 2023.

Asked directly why he wouldn't just dismiss such speculation about another job, Kingsbury said "we're in-season, we're 9-2. (It's) just not a topic I want to touch on right now."

Focusing on the post-bye is crucial for the Cardinals, who remain on top of the NFC standings by a mere half-game over the Packers. Green Bay has its bye this week; the Packers (9-3) also own the tiebreaker between the teams thanks to the head-to-head win earlier this season.

The Cardinals benefitted from the Bears playing on Thanksgiving; the only day Kingsbury didn't go into the office was the holiday itself and on Friday, his staff already was breaking down Chicago's win over the Lions. That allowed for the Cards to install the game plan Monday as players returned.

But the full installation isn't the only thing Kingsbury is looking forward to seeing at practice when the team gets back on the field Wednesday.

The coach continues to hedge slightly on the return to play of quarterback Kyler Murray (ankle) and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (hamstring), subject to their practice showings this week.

"I am hopeful," Kingsbury said of his two offensive stars. "I will leave it at that at this point because I want to see them move around, practice full speed, and see where they are at, and where their comfort level and their confidence is."

Kingsbury said he also had optimism starting guards Justin Pugh and Max Garcia would be ready for the Bears game as well.

In the past, Kingsbury has talked about the parts of the college game he doesn't miss in coaching, like worrying about guys getting to class or the recruiting. He was asked again Monday what part of the NFL game he likes as a coach.

"I enjoy the professionalism that these guys approach the game with each and every day, highly motivated, take care of their bodies, study the game," Kingsbury said. "It inspires you to be a better coach and step your game up because you better come into that meeting room knowing what you are talking about, with a level of expertise and trust from those guys, or you'll lose them."

The Cardinals have lost their first game coming out of the bye in each of Kingsbury's first two seasons, falling 34-7 to the Rams in 2019 and 34-31 to the Dolphins last season. Both of those games were at home.

The Cards have to go on the road post-bye this year, but it's with Kingsbury's best team. The break was necessary, and Kingsbury is confident the focus is in the right spot.

"Guys are fresh, rejuvenated," Kingsbury said. "They understand where we are in the season and what we have coming up."

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