Cardinals downplay absence of Kyler Murray, Hollywood Brown at voluntary team workouts
The absences of quarterback Kyler Murray, big-name free agent signee Marquise "Hollywood" Brown and running back James Conner, among other key Arizona Cardinals, at the beginning of voluntary organized team activities Monday didn't seem to be much of an issue for the team.
Those three weren't the only ones not on the field Monday. Offensive linemen D.J. Humphries and Rodney Hudson weren't present, nor were cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. and linebacker Markus Golden. Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is still working his way back from knee surgery.
Murray is seeking a long-term contract in line with the money some of the top quarterbacks in the NFL earn. He and his agent have not been shy about showing their displeasure with Murray's current contract situation, but more recently, cooler heads appear to have prevailed with the Cardinals retaining Murray's rights for this season and next.
"Everybody, we knew going into the offseason to start the offseason program who's going to be here, what their schedule is like and when we expect them back," Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. "I think as a coach, you want to have these guys here all the time. But it's not how the rules are set up. Different guys handle it in different ways."
The absences of some veterans and not all — defensive lineman J.J. Watt, defensive backs Budda Baker and Jalen Thompson, linebackers Isaiah Simmons, Dennis Gardeck and Zaven Collins, wide receiver A.J. Green, offensive lineman Will Hernandez and tight end Zach Ertz all practiced on Monday — means more opportunity to snaps for some younger players, Kingsbury said.
Kingsbury said he anticipates Murray will be there for mandatory mini-camp in mid-June.
Baker said he chose to come to this week's camp because the six-year pro is into camaraderie and learning about other people.
"That's what I just personally like to do, just because growing up, that's just how it was. That's what you just had to do," Baker said. "And, you know, now that I'm, I would like to say, among the leaders on the team, I definitely want to do that, because it just helps the younger guys kind of get a head start before training camp and all that stuff starts. Because what I tell the young guys is, you know, once training camp starts, positions are kind of already set. You're just going to have to do your job at that point in time."
If the Cardinals' front office discusses who comes or does not come to a voluntary camp, Baker said the players don't say much.
"We just understand that the guys who are not there, they communicated to their coaches that they weren't going to be there. And you know, are of course working and they're still in playbooks," Baker said. "I know, K-1 (Murray) is working really hard. I know that he is doing all the things that he can, whether it's talking to the coach, he's talking to the players, and I know that when he gets here he's going to be ready. There's going to be no drop off."
Ertz said everyone wants 100 percent attendance, but he's seen both sides of the decision.
"This year my situation is very straightforward and decided I'm all in. I've also been in a situation where it wasn't really, it wasn't a good situation for me to be at OTAs. So I empathize with everyone," Ertz said. "Obviously, everyone's got their own situation. But I'm just focusing on what I can control, and that's being the best version of myself. And I know that their goals are still the same for this team as being the best version of this team we can be. So I'm going to do my part and be the best version of myself."
Ertz said he talks to Murray every now and then and the two caught up briefly at UFC 274, which took place at Footprint Center two weeks ago. Murray is "just doing his thing," Ertz said, and as a friend, he tries to stay out of Murray's business matters.
"You want to support them for what they're going through. Obviously, it's not easy, whatever is going on," Ertz said. "If they want your opinion, they'll ask. If they don't, that's fine, too. But it seems like he's in a good place, and I know he's working his butt off to be the best quarterback he can be for this team."
Get in touch with Jose Romero at Jose.Romero@gannett.com. Find him on Twitter at @RomeroJoseM.