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Sean Murphy-Bunting Hopes To Be For What Cardinals Have Been Waiting

Cornerback comes into unit as veteran for young room

Cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting signs a contract with the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday, Mar 14, 2024 in Tempe, AZ.
Cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting signs a contract with the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday, Mar 14, 2024 in Tempe, AZ.

On his way to Phoenix to sign his contract, Sean Murphy-Bunting opened up the metaphorical book of memories that documented his journey to that point.

As emotional and full circle as it may have been, there was a powerful belief that emerged as he envisioned the legacy he hoped to create with the Cardinals.

"I want to be the guy they've been waiting for," Murphy-Bunting said. "I want to be the guy that you can rely on and say, 'He's going to handle that side of the feel and we're OK there.'"

Murphy-Bunting isn't an average 26-year-old trying to make a name in the league. He's seen both the highs and the lows that the game has to offer. In his second year in the NFL, Murphy-Bunting won a Super Bowl and became the first player since Ed Reed to have an interception in each of his first three playoff games.

He's also been tasked with coming off of the bench on limited snaps. These experiences, he believes, can help him now that he becomes the "young old guy" in the room.

"You have to know how to lead, and you can lead in many different ways," Murphy-Bunting said. "It's lessons. I think embracing the fact that I am the vet and embracing what I have been through and embracing the type of player and person I am. That's one thing that has never really changed about me. It's always attacking the days and opportunities at full throttle."

The Cardinals had one of the youngest cornerback rooms in the NFL by the time the 2023 season wrapped up. The room consisted of veteran Antonio Hamilton, and rookies Garrett Williams, Kei'Trel Clark, Starling Thomas V, and Divaad Wilson.

While he mostly played on special teams, the Cardinals also re-signed cornerback Bobby Price and brought in Michael Ojemudia and Darren Hall. With Hamilton a free agent, having Murphy-Bunting in the room not only adds experience but also an on-field talent that can slot him into the top cornerback role.

One of the ways Murphy-Bunting said he could help the younger cornerbacks in the room is by "pulling guys along who may need it and adjusting to how guys react to certain situations." That'll take place both on the field and in the meeting rooms.

But coach Jonathan Gannon's message to Murphy-Bunting is simple.

"Go do your thing, we signed you for a reason," Gannon said. "He's a really good player. He's played at a high level. He's a versatile player, and just like (linebacker) Mack (Wilson), has high football character, loves ball. He's going to love it here."

Murphy-Bunting has played both on the outside and in the slot. He's comfortable wherever defensive coordinator Nick Rallis places him but said he loves the ability to line up and jam a wide receiver at the line outside with physicality.

"Regardless, my job is to get the ball back to our offense," Murphy-Bunting said. "Regardless of if I have to make a run fit and support the run and try to punch the ball out that way or if it's a pass breakup or an interception, I'm always trying to attack the ball. That's just the kind of guy they're bringing in."

Gannon recalled scouting Murphy-Bunting out of Central Michigan when he was the defensive backs/cornerbacks coach with the Colts. Murphy-Bunting was ultimately drafted in the second round in 2019 to the Buccaneers.

Entering Year 6 in the NFL, the next chapter in Murphy-Bunting's story will finally feature Gannon.

"They see something in me that I see in myself," Murphy-Bunting said. "It resonates with me so well because everything that they preach and everything that they value, I have and then I do. So, I'm looking forward to just being a piece that they can use and utilize in every way and really help me reach my ceiling because that's the ultimate goal."