GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Arizona Cardinals trusted Kyler Murray's football ability so much that they were comfortable giving the quarterback a contract that was worth nearly a quarter billion dollars.
Now — after an ample dose of embarrassment for the organization — the Cardinals have also decided they trust him to study.
The Cardinals announced Thursday that they've removed an addendum to Murray's $230.5 million, five-year contract that mandated at least four hours of “independent study” during game weeks.
“After seeing the distraction it created, we removed the addendum from the contract,” the team said Thursday in a statement. “It was clearly perceived in ways that were never intended. Our confidence in Kyler Murray is as high as it’s ever been and nothing demonstrates our belief in his ability to lead this team more than the commitment reflected in his contract.”
Earlier Thursday, Murray burst through the locker room door, marched up to the podium for an impromptu media session and declared that there have been no “shortcuts” to success during his football career, no matter what provisions the Cardinals included in his new contract.
It was a rare show of public emotion for Murray, who vociferously defended his football study habits a few days after the NFL Network reported the unique addendum. The two sides agreed to the contract on July 21, making Murray one of the league's highest-paid quarterbacks at $46.1 million per season.
Murray is used to criticism about his game. That's part of the territory. He'll take heat for a bad throw, bad decision, bad body language or even his height at a listed 5-foot-10.
But his work ethic?
“To think I can accomplish everything I’ve accomplished in my career and not be a student of the game, and not have that passion and not take this serious, it’s disrespectful and almost a joke,” Murray said. “I’m honestly flattered that y’all think that, at my size, I can go out there and not prepare for the game and not take it serious.”
So that begs the question: Why did the team feel the need to add the addendum in the first place?
Murray — and the team — haven't really given a clear response.
“If you want to talk about football, we'll talk about football,” Murray said.
The addendum was unexpected for several reasons, including that coach Kliff Kingsbury and teammates have never voiced public displeasure with Murray’s preparation for games. The quarterback has certainly had a few bad games during his three-year pro career, but knowledge of the playbook was never in question.
Even Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers was surprised when he heard about Murray's study mandate.
“I think I just raised my eyebrows up like this,” Rodgers said, demonstrating. “That was the reaction. Yeah, I was happy to see him get paid. One thing I did see was I think his average salary per year was about on par with the salary cap of the Oakland Athletics, so I think he can definitely smile knowing he made the right choice.”
Murray — and the team — have endured a lot of criticism and jokes over the past few days. Fans and pundits have wondered why the Cardinals would spend $230.5 million on a quarterback if there are questions about his study habits.
Murray said there's nothing wrong with the way he prepares. Teammates seemed to agree, with tight end Zach Ertz saying that “Kyler knows the playbook better than anyone on this team."
“There's multiple different ways to watch film,” Murray said. "There's many different ways to process the game, there's many different ways quarterbacks learn the game and break the game down. Of course, I watch film by myself. That's a given. That doesn't even need to be said.
“But I do enjoy and love the process of watching the game with my guys, the quarterbacks, my coaches.”
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft out of Oklahoma, Murray took time Thursday to list his ample accomplishments on the football field over the past decade, from a 43-0 record in high school, to a Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma to his Pro Bowl selections in the NFL. There's also the fact that he was a top-10 selection in both the NFL and Major League Baseball drafts.
He said none of that would have happened if he didn't have a good work ethic.
“I'm not 6-7, 230, and I don't throw the ball 85 yards,” Murray said. “I'm already behind the 8-ball and can't afford to take any shortcuts.”
AP Sports Writer Steve Megargee contributed to this report.
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