TEMPE – The second half was a struggle yet again Sunday at Lumen Field for the Arizona Cardinals as the Seattle Seahawks defense pitched a shutout in the third and fourth quarters.
Despite an excellent performance by the defense, which allowed only six points after the halftime break, the Cardinals encountered the same problem that has plagued them throughout a 1-6 start to the regular season: finishing games.
But the 20-10 loss was just a subplot at the Cardinals facility. The headline is the potential return of a franchise cornerstone.
Quarterback Kyler Murray returned to practice with the team Wednesday, in preparation for an upcoming return. The former No. 1-overall draft pick hasn’t taken a snap for Arizona since suffering a torn ACL on the third play of the game against New England last December. Since then, Murray has watched his team put together a putrid 1-10 record, spanning parts of two seasons.
Anxious to have him back in the lineup, the Cardinals are proceeding with caution, knowing they want to make use of Murray’s entire skill set when he’s on the field.That means his legs
“Any time they become a ball carrier, they are at risk,” Cardinals coach Jonathan Gannon said Monday. “Some of that is how you design the plays. Some of that is them being smart. You don’t want to have them take unnecessary shots. You say that, but when you call a designed quarterback run, you know that he’s a ball carrier, and he’s going to be tackled. There’s a healthy blend to that.”
Arizona will continue to take things “day by day” with its star quarterback. The team has until Nov. 8 to activate Murray on the 53-man roster. Gannon is pleased with Murray’s translation of classroom study to the practice field so far.
“He did a really good job,” Gannon said. “I’m really pleased.”
Despite desperately wanting their Pro Bowl quarterback on the field, the Cardinals also have an incentive to keep Murray sidelined.
The signal-caller has $29.9 million in guaranteed money for 2025, which kicks in if Murray can’t pass a physical before March. Murray signed a contract extension in July 2022 that keeps him signed until 2028, with $160 million in injury guarantees. Protecting Murray from further injury would allow the Cardinals to avoid severe salary cap problems.
Nonetheless, they are set on Murray’s return to the gridiron, and one can understand why. Murray’s all-time record of 25-31-1 may not raise eyebrows, but it’s clear that Arizona is more competitive when its star is on the field. Since 2019, when Murray entered the league, the Cardinals are 4-12 without him.
Murray returns to a team that remains confident and positive, despite the slow start.
“Even though we’re 1-6, we still like what we have in the locker room,” said Cardinals linebacker Kyzir White. “I know it may sound crazy to you guys, but I don’t feel no type of way where guys don’t want to be here or don’t want to play. I think each and every week, we get more antsy to go out there on Sunday, and keep trying to prove ourselves right and people wrong.”
Arizona welcomed back star safety Budda Baker in the loss, a huge relief for the defense, which had a goal-line stand in the third quarter and didn’t allow a second-half touchdown.
“I feel like he got the best motor in the NFL of all positions,” White said. “He might not be the biggest guy or the strongest, but he’s just relentless. Knowing you got a guy like that running behind you, I can miss a tackle and I know Budda can clean it up. It feels good to have him back.”
The Cardinals are hopeful that Murray can turn their season around. It remains to be seen when he will return. Murray’s 21-day window to be activated closes on Nov. 8, meaning the latest he can return is Nov. 12 home matchup against the Atlanta Falcons.
White is eager to look ahead.
“It’s frustrating, but we still got 10 weeks left,” White said. “The season ain’t over. What if we go on a 10-game win streak? Then what?”