Kyler Murray smiled when talking about DeAndre Hopkins being back on the practice field on Tuesday for the first time after Hopkins' suspension had ended.
"His energy, man, it seems like every time you see him on the field … there is a reason why he's the best," the quarterback said.
Hopkins is back, playing on "Thursday Night Football" against the Saints and in a game for the first time since tearing up knee ligaments in mid-December. That kept him out of the final four games last season, and then he missed the first six this year for violating the league's policy on PEDs.
He returns to an offense that has struggled mightily, ranking near the bottom of the league in most metrics. The Cardinals need D-Hop.
But, Murray said, "it's not a miracle (cure) that everything is gone. We still have things we have to get better at, still things we need to fix."
The return of Hopkins doesn't solve everything. But it will certainly help.
"One person can't go out and win a game, but it does help having someone like myself out there who can dictate how defenses play us," Hopkins said after practice.
"Last year was a great example of that and me not having a game over 100 yards, a lot of people saw it of me having a down year," Hopkins added. "I look at it as a productive year because I got a lot of guys open. There are a lot of things that go into a football game more than just fantasy stats or yards."
Hopkins has been back in the building since Week 4, allowed to attend meetings and talk to coaches halfway through the suspension. But he wasn't allowed to practice, and the mere ability to run routes with the team and catch passes, "it feels good," he said.
He had been training at EXOS in Tempe, trying to run the same amount he would in practice, trying to reach the top-end speed he normally reach. But he acknowledged, "you can never simulate a football game outside of a football game."
But coach Kliff Kingsbury said Hopkins has already told him he will be able to play without restriction against the Saints, and Hopkins reiterated that notion.
"I've never been a guy who tapped out," Hopkins said. "I don't see that happening anytime soon."
Kingsbury knows Hopkins will bring a dynamic to the field the Cardinals have been missing on offense, but when it's noted Hopkins won't be a savior, Kingsbury said "no doubt with how we're playing."
"I hope that he can provide just a spark," Kingsbury said. "The way he competes and his play making, his after-the-catch stuff, he's a guy you get it close to him he's going to make a play on the ball."
Hopkins returns to an offense not only trying to find itself but also juggling personnel. Hollywood Brown is out for a reported six weeks with a foot injury, so Hopkins loses the tag-team partner the team (and fanbase) hoped to see him play with upon his return.
Incoming is Robbie Anderson, a tall but speedy receiver who also took part in his first Cardinals' practice on Tuesday.
"I knew getting Hollywood would help this team, and me getting out there," Hopkins said. "But we went out and got Robbie Anderson who hopefully can pick up where Hollywood left off."
But Hopkins is still Hopkins. He remains ultra-confident – "I know I still got it" – and joked having so much time off at the end of last season and the beginning of this one that it likely will "save some years on my career on the back end."
He never let the suspension bother him, he said.
"Football is a game I love and it's hard not to play it but when you deal with real life growing up …," Hopkins said. "I felt like I let my team down, but I wasn't going to let myself get down knowing we have 11 games to play."
Murray isn't worried about rust between the two, saying that he had Hop had little on-field work together in 2020 because of Covid and practice schedules in camp, and Hopkins had a monster game in their first one together (14 catches, 151 yards).
So yes, Hop is back. And it matters.
"I don't itch to get out there," Hopkins said. "I think people are more nervous of me being out there, my opponent, than me being nervous.
"I've been in the NFL 10 years, I've been productive every year, whatever quarterback is throwing me the ball. I've never had a concern or worry."
Images of the Cardinals practicing at the Dignity Health Sports Complex before the Week 7 regular season matchup against the New Orleans Saints