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The Ballad Of Clayton Tune Still Could Include A Starting Verse

Rookie quarterback getting second-team reps behind Colt McCoy

QB Clayton Tune throws a pass at a recent camp practice.
QB Clayton Tune throws a pass at a recent camp practice.

Clayton Tune's welcome to the NFL moment came in the summer, when the Cardinals were going through OTAs.

There was a run play called to the left – but Tune, as he turned from center, opened up to the right.

"I realized I was wrong and tried to pitch it back and it hit the running back and fell on the ground," the rookie quarterback said. "It was just … bad. Bad play."

A first-year QB – chosen in the fifth round, no less – is going to have such plays. What a rookie fifth-round signal-caller doesn't usually have is a chance to start.

How much of a chance? That's what training camp and the preseason is going to be about. Veteran Colt McCoy is taking the snaps as the current Cardinals No. 1, while Kyler Murray continues to rehab from his knee surgery while on the Physically Unable to Perform list. But Tune has gotten the second-most practice reps and has worked the most with the second string, above veterans David Blough and Jeff Driskel.

The Cardinals are going to be young in certain areas already this season, so the idea Tune might ultimately get the starting nod intrigues at least part of the fan base – and leaves Tune somewhat uncomfortable when such a thing is brought up.

"Not really," Tune said. "I don't know. I haven't heard any of that."

McCoy remains the likely starter. It's McCoy with the experience, McCoy with 36 NFL starts. Recently, Tune, who is from Texas, told McCoy that when the day after McCoy finished his college career at the University of Texas by playing in the Rose Bowl, Tune wore a McCoy replica jersey to school. Tune was 10 at the time.

Now he's got a chance to usurp McCoy, however unlikely it might be.

"He's approached it like a pro," GM Monti Ossenfort said. "He's put in extra time with our coaches, with our players. It's the toughest position to play in professional football and probably the toughest position to play in professional sports. … It's fun to see him grow. Again, long way to go, but the early returns have been promising."

Said Driskel, "He's asked all the right questions."

While Tune did say the day he was drafted he thought he was the best quarterback in the draft, his comments now are far from braggadocio. While he acknowledges he has thought "a little bit" about the preseason opener a week from Friday, mostly it is a day-to-day existence.

"I didn't know what to expect" when camp started, Tune said, including that he would be getting the second-string reps. It had been important to come into camp with a sharp sense of the playbook after being off more than a month, and hoped just to make a good first impression.

He won't even say he could start now if he needed too, only that he has to keep working daily to reach that level.

"It's got to be tailored to how (Tune) learns, and that has been a process for us," offensive coordinator Drew Petzing said. "We've gotten to know him as he's gotten to know the system and there is that belief that more reps are better for a young guy and certainly there is some truth to that. There is also a lot of value of sitting back and watching guys do it. He's done a great job of balancing the two."

The idea that there is a Brock Purdy-esque story waiting to be drawn out of Tune remains for now. You just aren't going to hear about it from Tune – he's still marveling each time he has practice at State Farm Stadium.

"Every time I step on the field," Tune said, "I look around and think, 'Man, this is cool.'"

Images from 2023 Cardinals Training Camp at State Farm Stadium

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