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Quietly Confident, Kyler Murray Ready For His NFL Debut

Rookie quarterback prepares to take on Lions in regular-season opener

Quarterback Kyler Murray is set to make his NFL regular-season debut Sunday.
Quarterback Kyler Murray is set to make his NFL regular-season debut Sunday.

Sometimes, Kliff Kingsbury wants to know how his rookie quarterback likes a particular play, because if he doesn't, the coach is willing to toss it aside that week.

But Kyler Murray mostly won't ever say he doesn't like a play, "because he wants to make them all and that's his attitude."

Murray disputes this – "If I don't like it, I'll tell him," Murray said, insisting he had just done it Tuesday – but Kingsbury said he will still "badger him constantly" to generate conversation.

"He's not going to be over-the-top, rainbows and sunshine with you," Kingsbury said. "I like that, because that's how he carries himself. He's very confident, very competitive. I like where he is at. So I don't ever see him bringing me cupcakes on game day or anything like that. He is going to be who he is."

The notion brings a smile to Murray's face, and the quarterback says "I'd say the same thing about him" when it comes to talking with his head coach. But as Murray heads into his first regular-season start, there is little question about his mentality. He's not going to monologue his way through the media or even with his coach, but his confidence is undeniable, and he insists there is no nervousness.

Murray said he really hasn't been nervous since his first varsity year as a sophomore at Allen High School in Dallas, although he could see himself getting some butterflies Saturday night, on the eve of Sunday's home game against the Lions.

But it's tough to see much emotion out of Murray, a trait that's become apparent over the brief five months he's been a Cardinal. What Murray shows the world through the media is the same guy Kingsbury works with on a daily basis, and the same guy taking the huddle with veteran teammates on the field.

"He is young but he has leadership qualities," veteran guard J.R. Sweezy said. "We respect the heck out of him.

"Everybody leads a different way, and we're learning his way. It's not vocal, and I love that part. I don't need a 'Hoo-rah' guy. I actually really respect and like that side of him."

Murray said all the right things about the Lions Wednesday. He downplayed the chance to finally get use of the full offense, saying only an inability to execute would cost the Cardinals a chance to win. Kingsbury noted Murray's desire to have the ball in his hands, to be in control of the outcome, in a game that counts.

"He thought he was going to be here his entire life," Kingsbury said. "This is just the next step for him."

The Lions present a good challenge, with a head coach in Matt Patricia who not only is defensive-minded, but trained under defensive mastermind Bill Belichick. Not that the opponent matters, really, given Murray's status as the No. 1 overall pick with the accompanying weight of expectations.

"It's hard to step in as a rookie, Day One, and win a football game," Kingsbury said.

Murray did admit he rarely throws away a play Kingsbury presents to him. "I'm confident," Murray said, so why wouldn't he be able to make a play work?

That'll end up part of the learning curve. Eventually, Murray's game-prep will be more like Cardinals predecessors such as Kurt Warner and Carson Palmer, using veto power on certain play choices each week. He probably isn't going to evolve into a big conversationalist, but that certainly hasn't inhibited his quarterbacking accomplishments thus far.

"He wants to be successful and there is going to be some anxiousness," Kingsbury said. "But that's just his personality. Sometimes it may come off as a certain way but that's not any other way than who he is. He's true to himself. You just get used to it."

Images from practice at the Dignity Health Arizona Cardinals Training Center