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On Kyler Murray's meniscus and critics' silly parsing of the Cardinals QB's words

Howard Balzer Avatar
July 20, 2023

While there are many questions the Cardinals will try to answer when training camp begins next week, the status of quarterback Kyler Murray remains at the top of the list.

We previewed the most recent Flight Plan that dropped on YouTube last week, but there were other aspects gleaned from watching the entire episode. The newest information came when Murray was discussing the January surgery and mentioned the repair to his meniscus in addition to a torn ACL.

That was rarely discussed last winter, and many dismissed it as insignificant, although those who did weren’t doctors and hadn’t conferred with medical experts.

Here at PHNX, I reported that Dr. David Chao, longtime team physician for the San Diego Chargers whose injury analysis can be seen at sicscore.com and on Twitter, said the meniscus’ inclusion could delay the start of the ACL rehab because Murray might not be able to put pressure on his leg for at least several weeks.

Murray confirmed that and said he had been told before surgery that he would likely be on crutches for six weeks because of the pressure issue. However, Murray revealed that he was in the training room the day after surgery, saying, “I was Day 1 right out of surgery; they let me put pressure on it. I think that was helpful. I was in the training room the next day.”

Strangely, with all that was written and said prior to and after Flight Plan was broadcast, that was hardly mentioned in places other than PHNX. The question is, how much will it affect when he is able to practice and play again, and whether that might be sooner than has been speculated.

Chao has said from the jump that the earliest Murray could play with the “high bar” expected of him would be from Week 4 to Week 8, and that while “putting pressure on it early helped the rehab,” it “would have been harder and potentially longer” if he was on crutches for six weeks.”

“You can’t speed up biology,” Chao concluded.

Having been a part of many decisions in the NFL, Chao emphasized that there are three parts to the equation: the team, how Murray feels and the medical analysis.

“Without much practice, learning a new offense, when will the team risk it? Will medical risk it? When will medical know if his necessary quickness is back,” he said.

There has been persistent overreactions to news that Murray has been running straight ahead because that’s obviously a lot different than playing in a game with the cutting and necessary quickness that is such a part of his game that makes him effective. That alone should stop people from believing he could be ready to play a game in 52 days.

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson could have played at the end of last season if he were a pocket quarterback. The return of Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow in 2021 was different because he is a pocket quarterback, and he had an “isolated” ACL surgery. There was MCL involvement, but it was partial and was a “minor component,” according to Chao and did not require surgery without other ligament involvement.

Chao watched Flight Plan and said he wasn’t impressed by the throwing shown, assuming that occurred fairly recently, noting “the way he threw the ball from a statue platform” and added, “He’s not close to being on the field. He looks horrible when he was throwing the ball and limping around on the beach.”

He further asserted that Murray’s ideal goal of playing in Week 1 were “words of false hope.” If that’s the case, it questions why the team would put that out for everyone to hear.

As for when he might be able to practice and play, Chao believes it will be difficult to put Murray on the field for games when he’s not 100 percent. “Sure, he could be in the 90s, but if he’s a quarter-step slower, is it worth it to do that?” he said.

That’s especially relevant considering Murray’s history of injury and playing at times when he wasn’t right. That occurred in 2020 when Murray continued playing despite a shoulder injury and his performance was affected, and the following season when he likely came back too soon after missing three games because of a high-ankle sprain.

There were myriad reasons for the Cardinals’ collapses at the end of both seasons, but Murray’s health played a major part.

We’ll know by next Tuesday or Wednesday whether Murray will open camp on active/physically unable to perform, but whatever the team decides, any timetable is merely a guess.

Consider the April words of tight end Zach Ertz, who tore his ACL 29 days before Murray last season.

“Week 1 is obviously the goal (sound familiar); that’s about 10 months almost post-injury. Unfortunately, rehabs aren’t linear progressions so you can’t make bold statements of, ‘I’m going to be 100 percent. I’m going to be my old self come Week 1.’

“But I’m doing everything I can to put the best version of myself on the field each and every day and hopefully that ends up with me being ready to go Week 1.”

War of words

Although there has largely been positive reaction to how Murray was portrayed in the team-produced Flight Plan, it’s no surprise that it also generated some negative reviews. Those were centered around comments made by Murray that were interpreted as shots at former coach Kliff Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim.

In one, Murray said, “As far as the chip on my shoulder and what type of energy I’m coming in with this season, I feel free in a sense, especially with the change upstairs and the organization. I feel like they’ve done a great job since they came in. Holding people accountable, the leadership. … The way we’re going, I feel like personally, the sky’s the limit.

“It’s pretty different for me, but it’s been seamless. Me and (coach Jonathan Gannon) hit it off. He sees things the way I see things. He can relate to the guys and he genuinely feels like he believes in the guys and trying to get them better, me better. I feel like you’ll run through a wall for that type of guy and that’s the type of energy that he brings.”

He added that, “I’m going to listen. I’m going to be coachable and I’m going to do it to the best of my ability, but if the shit ain’t working, at some point, we all have to look in the mirror. It’s a team sport. We all have to be locked in.”

Obviously, most players will talk positively whenever a new regime takes over. But Murray was right. Keim thought Murray went too far when talking about things not working. On FS1 with Colin Cowherd, Keim said, “I think in terms of quarterbacks, what he said you don’t love it, just because of the standpoint when he added the word ‘but’ in, generally behind a positive the word ‘but’ does not end in a positive light. I certainly didn’t want to hear that. And nor do fans want to hear a guy who’s making $46.1 million a year blame anybody but himself.

“I’m not saying he’s a guy that blames people. Yet at the same time, when you get that bag of cash, everybody expects you to take it on your shoulders, and that’s what a franchise quarterback does. This is a big year. I would have actually had Kyler in my top five for guys under pressure, because what if they have a bad year?

“He’s coming off the injury. He’s got to prove himself. What happens, as what people forecast, if they have the No. 1 pick, they’re in a real predicament.”

He’s not wrong about the latter, but Murray did say, “we all have to look in the mirror.” It’s a stretch to label that blaming others.

Meanwhile, there’s always going to be rabble-rousers, and that’s what Jason McIntyre did on Cowherd’s show in bizarre fashion, saying the word accountability or accountable five times but apparently missing the part where Murray talked about the newcomers, yes, holding people accountable.

McIntyre said, “I don’t want to say like, we all have to look in the mirror. Yes, football’s a team sport and the defense of Arizona is not good; it’s going to be horrid this year. Special teams is not great either. They have the youngest coaching staff in the league. There’s a lot of problems here, but this is about Kyler Murray and accountability and you know, historically, accountability hasn’t been a big thing for Kyler Murray.

“I want to remind you guys, Kyler Murray is a very pampered player. He’s one of the most ballyhooed high-school football players in Texas football history … I’m sure some people are saying, ‘Listen, J-Mac, ease up on this kid! He was a college kid going to the NFL.’ Guys, he kept looking to his dad for answers. I heard a story that Kyler Murray’s mom was still doing his laundry in Arizona. This is while he’s the quarterback of the Arizona Cardinals. Like, at some point you’ve got to grow up and show accountability.” And do your own laundry, I guess.

Whew; there’s a lot to unpack there.

Then, there’s this: “Listen, it all begins and ends with Kyler Murray. And he’s on a sinking ship right now. This is a franchise in flux and Kyler Murray has to step up and be accountable. You look at these Kyler Murray quotes and you start to wonder, ‘Man, this guy has been in the league five years (actually four), he got his big contract. Does Kyler Murray understand accountability?'”

It’s usually disingenuous for those that qualify what they say by pointing out the obvious that football is a team sport, but then put everything on the quarterback as if nothing that happens around them has an effect on production. As important as quarterback play is, there are 10 other players on offense with him on every play. Yes, stating the obvious!

But that leads to my final, simple question: Does Jason McIntyre understand accountability?

Or is he just about making waves to be noticed?

Don’t hesitate to comment or ask questions on Twitter or via email: howard@gophnx.com. Also, become a DIEHARD and use the promo code HOWARD

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