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No Sugarcoating Kyler Murray's Importance To Cardinals

Whether it's his play on field or his behind-the-scenes dialogue, QB1 matters

Quarterback Kyler Murray scrambles during a play at a recent training camp practice.
Quarterback Kyler Murray scrambles during a play at a recent training camp practice.

When Kyler Murray first arrived in Arizona, his discussions with Kliff Kingsbury were more about Xs and Os and installing an offense.

Now the conversations in Year 3 are about philosophy and leadership, and, occasionally, potential roster moves.

Not that Murray would ever go blunt in a press conference like the Packers' Aaron Rodgers – Murray appreciated Rodgers' recent presentation, more on that later – but Kingsbury understands mining his quarterback for information.

"Those guys have as good a feel for players, players' personalities, and talent as any of us because they have been on the field and they have worked with them," Kingsbury said. "I do think that goes a long way. I like, and (GM) Steve (Keim) is the same way, we talk to Kyler about different players he likes, whether it be receivers, linemen, and we like having that dialogue. Gives you a different perspective."

Murray smiled when told Kingsbury appreciated his viewpoint. He also smiled when asked about Rodgers' meeting with the media, in which Rodgers made clear he was unhappy the Packers' front office didn't communicate with him about personnel moves.

"People like to sugarcoat s**t," Murray said. "I loved how real he was with it."

Murray noted he is not Rodgers, not a player with multiple MVPs, a Super Bowl win and 17 years in the league. Such a public showing by Rodgers must be earned, Murray said, and it was clear he knows he is not there yet.

He told the media "I'll sugarcoat to y'all" – again with the smile he wore through most of his first press conference of training camp – but acknowledged he has a good enough relationship with Kingsbury and Keim that he can tell them things and they will at least listen.

"Coach Kingsbury, he played quarterback, so I think he understands it," Murray said. "You like to have a say in what goes on, you like to have a say in guys you'd want to play with because at the end of the day, we're the ones on the field, we go through it, we see it every day, we know who is good.

"We can only give our opinion. It is what it is. They can take it and run with it however they may."

Tangibly it's an example of how Kingsbury sees Murray feeling like the Cardinals are truly "his" team now. Murray wasn't sure that outlook necessarily has changed for him much, but Kingsbury believes it is the deeper meaning of how Murray has learned to deal with adversity since arriving in the NFL.

"In practice, if things don't go his way, he's handling the ups and downs a lot better, when in those first two years I think he felt like the weight of the world and he had to be perfect on every play," Kingsbury said.

Then again, Murray argues the point that he's found a balance between trying to be perfect and understanding he cannot.

"I'm not trying to be average," Murray said. "I'm always striving to be perfect. Obviously being perfect is very tough, very hard, maybe not a thing. But we're going to get damn close. We're going to try to. We're not trying to be average."

Murray's quest to earn that Rodgers-type cache continues. The Cardinals can give Murray his first contract extension as soon as once the 2021 regular season concludes – "I'm not to worried about it," Murray said – although Kingsbury acknowledged if that were to happen, both Murray and the team likely had an excellent season.

In the meantime, the conversations will continue. Maturity as a leader? Kingsbury said even if Murray sometimes shows emotion on the field, what most don't see now is the quarterback getting to the sideline encouraging teammates too.

"Early on he was just trying to survive himself," Kingsbury said.

With Larry Fitzgerald absent/waiting/undecided, Murray is the clear face of the franchise – if he wasn't already. The quarterback acknowledges learning his way around the NFL game, but he doesn't sugarcoat the point that it's always been his team.

"I've always felt like that," Murray said. "That's the position I play, guys look to me to be the leader of the team, I touch the ball every play, I make decisions every play, I've held that my whole life. I don't feel any different.

"Whoever is here, whoever is not here, I'm going to be me."

Images from the second practice of 2021 training camp.

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