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The Return Of Kyler Murray: 'I've Felt Good For Quite Some Time'

Quarterback prepares for first start after tearing ACL

Quarterback Kyler Murray (1) talks with center Hjalte Froholdt (left) during practice this week.
Quarterback Kyler Murray (1) talks with center Hjalte Froholdt (left) during practice this week.

Early in Kyler Murray's rehab from ACL surgery, he was told that once he reached the nine-month mark, the chances of reinjuring himself would drop dramatically.

"It was crazy," the Cardinals quarterback recounted Thursday, in his first meeting with the media since the outset of training camp. "Right at nine months, I woke up and I felt like, it feels different. I just kind of knew. I felt different.

"I've felt good for quite some time now."

Murray will see another milestone when he starts against the Falcons on Sunday, a date that falls 11 months to the day when he tore up his right knee on the State Farm Stadium turf against the Patriots. For now, he is "kind of emotionless" about the moment upcoming, acknowledging that will likely change on Sunday afternoon.

What Murray will be on display? Coach Jonathan Gannon already warned that "it might not look like Kyler" in the first few games back. Murray smiled at the notion. Gannon had told him the same.

"He told me that to my face and I kind of laughed at him," Murray said. "I understand the thought process. But every time I touch the field, I'm trying to do my thing. That's win and do it at a high level.

"I understand the thought process of 'Take it slow, don't be too hard on yourself.' I missed all the reps, I missed all the camp reps, I missed all the preseason. I've missed all this time. I hear what he's saying. But that's not in my head."

Kyler Murray talks to the media on Thursday.
Kyler Murray talks to the media on Thursday.

The Cardinals have only one win in the 13 games Murray has missed dating back to last season (and lost the game in which he was injured). Despite all that, he was upbeat of the direction of the team behind Gannon and GM Monti Ossenfort and insisting "we're not a bad football team."

Murray's return will help that, as will potential returns by running back James Conner and wide receiver Michael Wilson.

Getting to this point, though, has been the overarching storyline of the Cardinals season – the franchise quarterback returning from a devastating knee injury.

"He's probably more excited than me," Gannon said, before catching himself. "Ahh … maybe not."

The layers to Murray's return are onion-like. The Cardinals are trying to snap a six-game losing streak and are coming off a performance in which the offense managed only 58 net yards. The skill players might be healthier, but the offensive line is in its worst shape health-wise all season and likely will be down three starters (and into third string at one guard spot).

Meanwhile, Murray will try to get going on the fly, still with only a month of work not only on a rebuilt knee but also in a new offense.

"I like to do a lot of envisioning," Murray said. "There is going to be some adversity I am sure throughout the game. You prepare for that, you plan, and you get back out there and keep going."

That includes his first hit – "I'm not thinking about that" Murray said with a smile – and first cut in live action. He'll do it once, he said, take a deep breath, understand he's fine, and move on.

"If I was thinking about (the knee) now I wouldn't be out here," Murray said. "I can't get better if I don't trust it. … If the doctor says I'm good if (senior reconditioning coordinator) Buddy (Morris) says I'm good, then we're good. As far as being scared, you get one day of those reps to be kind of hesitant. After that, we gotta go."

The offense with Joshua Dobbs had a lot of under-center and more planned runs at QB that Murray is used to, so how the offense is called and what tweaks will be used for the new signal-caller will be part of the story.

Regardless of what Murray believes, the coaches aren't assuming Pro Bowl Kyler right away.

"Anytime you do something for the first time in a while, it's hard," offensive coordinator Drew Petzing said. "New system, new teammates, it's Week 10, and you're coming off an injury. I compared it last week, look what an offense looks like in the first 10 plays in preseason (game) one, Week 1, Week 5, Week 10. It's no different than an individual player. There will be some growth, there will be some bumps along the road. I know he's ready to handle that. But that's reality."

Hollywood Brown, Murray's best friend and top wideout, has been stumping for his buddy since Murray returned to practice, lauding how he looks throwing the ball and embracing his return as QB1.

"Being away from the game is never easy," Brown said, adding, "for me, it's like he never left."

Brown said Murray is more motivated than ever to show what he is capable of on the field. Murray was asked about that mindset,

"I can't get into all the thought process behind why," Murray said. "There are so many reasons why. But I would say that's accurate."

Kyler is back, and now he gets to show everyone what that means to him.

"I just feel like I gained a new level of resiliency from this," Murray said. "I already felt like I had that chip on my shoulder, never out of anything, never down.

"(But) when you go through something like this, you find out really quick about who you are and what you're about."

Images of the Cardinals practicing at the Dignity Health Sports Complex before the Week 10 regular season matchup against the Atlanta Falcons

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