INDIANAPOLIS – Kliff Kingsbury opened with some levity.
"Just a quick programming note," the Cardinals coach said Tuesday, before taking the first question from the media at the NFL Scouting Combine. "(GM) Steve Keim will be here at 3 p.m. I know he's really anxious to talk to you guys, so any of the tough ones, you can save for him."
Kingsbury knew what was coming. The subject leaned heavy into quarterback Kyler Murray and Murray's desire for a contract extension, which his agent made plain in a statement released Monday.
"It's part of the business," Kingsbury said, who acknowledged he had read the statement.
Keim said it was just an agent doing his job, and all contract talks would be held confidential – and another couple of attempts to pry any information from Keim about conversations between he and Murray agent Erik Burkhardt were rebuffed.
"People have different ways of approaching things and I respect it," Keim said. "You can't get caught up taking things personal. It is a business. You have to be able to separate the business and the personal side of it.
"I've done contracts with players individually (without agents), as recently DeAndre Hopkins, and that was one of the things we had to talk about. To make sure when we sat together that were going to be able to talk this out together and it wasn't going to become personal."
Keim said he is not concerned about any repercussions if a Murray extension isn't done this offseason, and also not concerned that Murray would sit out. Keim added the Cardinals will "absolutely" pick up Murray's fifth-year option for 2023 should a new deal not get done by the early May deadline.
Kingsbury did say, since Covid has helped derail two offseasons in a row, that this one is crucial for Murray and the entire offense to grow together. If it doesn't happen, however, "we've been through it before."
Kingsbury said he had not yet talked to Murray since the statement came out, but that they talk often, noting "we're in a great place." Murray has already had discussions with Kingsbury about potential player additions the team could make this offseason.
"Our long-term goal is to have Kyler Murray be our quarterback," Kingsbury said. "He understands that and he understands my view of him and how I feel about him."
Kingsbury said Murray has improved "by leaps and bounds" since he came into the league, improving each year. That includes leadership, the coach added.
Keim also noted the growth of Murray – and Kingsbury for that matter – and "both of them will continue to grow in the right direction."
Kingsbury's agent is also Burkhardt. But he said he discusses only his business with Burkhardt and not Murray's, knowing it's important to keep them separate. To that end, Kingsbury said he did not know about Monday's statement until it arrived on social media.
"I love Kyler, I love Erik, and that's not going to change," Kingsbury said.
Keim also provided his own levity, when asked about Kingsbury's relationship with both Burkhardt and to Murray and difficult financial decisions on deck. Kingsbury made it clear he doesn't get involved in any contract discussions on the roster, and Keim said it wouldn't be a problem.
"When there's money to be spent, Kliff runs for the hills," Keim said with a smile. "You guys know his personality. He wants no part of that smoke."