Where’s Kyler? Arizona Cardinals teammates not concerned about quarterback’s absence at workouts

Although Kyler Murray, left, wasn’t at the Arizona Cardinals’ voluntary workouts, running back James Conner, right, says it’s “no big deal.” (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Despite the angst of fans, Kyler Murray’s teammates don’t seem concerned that the Arizona Cardinals quarterback skipped the first day of offseason voluntary workouts.

“All I need him to be there for is the first game of the season and play good,” defensive end J.J. Watt said Tuesday.

Murray is entering the final year of his rookie contract with the Cardinals, with the logical next step a long-term deal.

He’s one of many veterans around the league who chose to skip voluntary workouts. Running back James Conner doesn’t see it as a distraction.

“No big deal at all,” Conner said. “The guys who come here are just going to work. We know he’s working. It’s early, everybody is just getting work right now. It’s just strength and conditioning.”

Watt said he and Murray talk frequently, and if Murray needs advice on contracts, Watt will be there for him. Watt understands that each situation is unique, especially in a quarterback-driven league.

Coming off a season-ending playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the wild card round last season, the Cardinals are looking forward to returning to work in a normal offseason setting after two offseasons marred by COVID-19 restrictions.

“I’m loving it,” Conner said. “It’s nice to have all of that stuff behind us and be able to get in here early. This feels like riding a bike.”

Watt agreed.

“I’m looking forward to that,” he said. “But I been here all offseason and been in here every single day with some of the guys. I’ve really enjoyed my time here in Arizona. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the offseason to having more of the guys back and just working.”

J.J. Watt is among the veterans who participated in voluntary workouts Tuesday at the Arizona Cardinals practice facility in Tempe. (Photo courtesy of Arizona Cardinals)

After his first season with the Cardinals, Conner is looking forward to feeling more comfortable with the offense in his second year, and recently signed a three-year, $21 million dollar deal. He rushed for 752 yards and 15 touchdowns, which tied for second in the NFL.

“It’ll be nice to continue to hear the language again and get in that rhythm and flow,” Conner said. “I think Year 2 could be big.”

Watt suffered a shoulder injury in Week 7 last season against his former team, the Houston Texans. The injury kept him out until the final game against the Rams. He feels back to 100% with no current issues, he said.

For Conner, the start of voluntary workouts is simply one phase of the offseason.

“We know that our guys are getting to it whether they’re here or somewhere else,” he said. “We got the mandatory stuff coming up and all that so football will be a lot more amped up. But for right now, we just got to get in shape, we got to be able to run.”

The wild card loss last season taught the Cardinals valuable lessons going forward, several players agreed. They hope the knowledge will help them reach the ultimate goal of winning the Super Bowl.

The start of offseason workouts is a step toward that goal.

“You got to play your best football at the most important times of the year,” Watt said. “I think that’s the key to this league … finding your stride at the right time. I hope it’s motivation for every single guy on the team to do everything in their power this offseason, this training camp, this season to make sure we’re not in a situation like that again, both the back half of the season and specifically what happened in the playoffs.”

Watt added that “if you can’t look at that game and you can’t walk out of that stadium feeling motivation and wanting to work harder, wanting to be better, and wanting to do everything that you can, you’re probably in the wrong business.”

Watt and his teammates are confident Murray will be walking out of that stadium along with them.

Garrie Ester Gare-ree Eh-str
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Garrie Ester expects to graduate in spring 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Ester, who has completed the New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab at ASU, is working for the Phoenix sports bureau.