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Kyler Murray Heads Back To Nashville Seeking To Fine-Tune Game

Quarterback embarks on Year 3 against Titans in city where his draft took place

Quarterback Kyler Murray throws a pass during a recent practice in Tempe.
Quarterback Kyler Murray throws a pass during a recent practice in Tempe.

Nashville will always be an important place for Kyler Murray; it was there where he took the phone call in 2019 from Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim, telling him he would be the No. 1 overall draft pick.

It was there where he walked out on the stage, donning Cardinals gear for the first time.

"It was a great night," Murray said, "but it definitely seems like a long time ago."

Three years later, the quarterback is returning to the city to begin this crucial NFL season, facing the reigning AFC South champion Titans with expectations heavy not only on his team, but on him.

Does he feel them? Murray doesn't come across that way. He was unconcerned in training camp about playing preseason games. He promised that any preseason play didn't count, and has no concerns of his brief exhibition showing – 1-for-4 passing for 2 yards on nine plays, no first downs.

Murray just wants to start, embracing a road trip to begin the year, embracing a hostile crowd that will be waiting in Tennessee, and insisting that whatever pressure faces the Cardinals – "I'm not too worried about the playoffs," he said, espousing one day at a time – does not matter to him.

"I thought last year he took a big step and I expect him to take another big one this season," coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "We're playing against a really good team and we understand that, but he looked really sharp in camp."

Improving on his game – which looked headed toward 4,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing most of the season before coming up short in both – doesn't include any dramatic shifts. He doesn't see holes as much as tweaks.

"I've been playing this game since I was four years old, so I think every year something new comes up, I think – experiences you haven't been in, maybe a throw you've never made, you try to work on that," Murray said. "But for the most part it's fine-tuning everything I've been doing, watching film and focusing on being smarter and making sure you get to the correct place faster."

Murray did memorably say earlier in the offseason he feels like his legs are a luxury, a nod to perhaps running less (he had 819 yards rushing last season.) But Kingsbury said Murray will do what it takes to win, and that sometimes includes running the ball.

Yes, Murray was beat up a little down the stretch, but Kingsbury reiterated his confidence in Murray knowing how to play with his rushing game and smaller frame.

"He's one of the more dynamic athletes in the league and he's going to continue to play that way," Kingsbury said.

Besides, with A.J. Green looking solid in practice, a new toy in Rondale Moore and a healthy Christian Kirk – in addition to running backs Chase Edmonds and James Conner – Murray has some outlets beyond DeAndre Hopkins.

"If I don't make stuff happen with what I've got, I'm not doing my job," Murray said. "That's how I see it."

Murray's path from that night in Nashville has been up – NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2019, a Pro Bowl in 2020. What, Murray was asked, comes next?

"We'll see," the Cardinals' franchise QB said. "We'll see. We'll see."

Images from Wednesday's practice in Tempe.

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