For weeks, as the two handled their rehabs simultaneously, they talked and joked and got to know each other in ways they hadn’t during Murray’s first four seasons in the NFL. During their sessions, Humphries learned two things about his quarterback: Murray didn’t mind putting in the work to get his knee better following surgery on his right ACL, and he was funny. Really, really funny.
“A lot funnier than he puts on,” Humphries said.
If you ask Murray who’s the funniest person on the team, he’ll ultimately say himself — according to wide receiver Marquise Brown, who has known Murray since college at Oklahoma.
“Like 100 percent,” Brown said. “He thinks he’s so funny. You got to know him to get his jokes, for sure, but he’s funny without having to be like that. He’s funny unintentionally.”
For the first time in the NFL, Murray spent the offseason in Arizona instead of returning to his hometown of Dallas to train, and it allowed him to immerse himself in not just the Cardinals’ offseason program but with his teammates as well.
As Murray emerged from an ACL injury that prematurely cut last season short and sidelined Murray until last weekend — when he lead a come-from-behind win over the Atlanta Falcons in his first start since last December — his teammates have welcomed back a changed Murray. He’s more open and available, showing more of himself, they say.
“Guys are starting to really know him for him and knowing how good of a person and teammate he is,” Brown said. “It was good to see him interact on a personal level with our different teammates since he’s been here in the offseason. You could tell he’s opened up a lot, more to the group, and that’s been a good thing to see.”
After getting past the surgery, the rehab, the practices and his first game — the 26-year-old Murray feels like this is exactly where he’s supposed to be as the Cardinals prepare to face the Houston Texans (1 p.m. ET, CBS).
“I think I’m a different person. I think so,” Murray said. “I think just some things that happen to you, you can’t really control. They either elevate you or bring you down, but I think this is one of those things that everything happens for a reason. I think it was for the better. Not only for me, but just for everyone.
“I think that a lot of people keep saying that I’m different. Like, ‘He’s such a better leader now. He is this and that.’ I just think the light is different right now. I think people around me, teammates, everybody — it’s just different energy.”
Murray said he became more resilient since suffering the first major injury of his career last December while scrambling against the New England Patriots. He’ll admit he has always had a chip on his shoulder despite being a Heisman winner and former No. 1 overall draft pick. The injury, however, taught him a lot about himself.
Marquis Hayes, a Cardinals practice squad offensive lineman who played with Murray at Oklahoma, said Murray seems more appreciative of football after going through the past 11 months. He’s also “very open,” Hayes said, a vast difference from the Murray he knew in college. Hayes said Murray kept more to himself at Oklahoma.
From the time the season started to when he began practicing again, Murray embraced his new role as observer within the team and within the offense. Even though he wasn’t able to practice, Murray, in a lot of ways, took on a similar role to that of a backup quarterback. He helped with the game plan, he gave advice, he chimed in when he felt it was necessary and would help.
But his presence in the locker room this season has still been that of a franchise quarterback, according to offensive coordinator Drew Petzing.
“I think guys feed off that,” Petzing said. “You know, there’s a line, ‘Players like good players,’ and he’s a phenomenal player, but he’s also a great teammate. He’s there to pick guys up, he’s there to put his arm around them, so it’s been fun as long as I’ve been here. I think he’s done a really nice job of that.”
He was often the first one in the facility and last one out during his rehab, which impressed linebacker Dennis Gardeck, who prides himself on being that type of player as well.
“I kind of have goosebumps right now, it’s just so cool to see,” Gardeck said of Murray’s performance in Sunday’s win. “I know that feeling, I know all the hard work, the loneliness of having to do that rehab. Everything he’s gone through and just to hit it in stride as a starting quarterback.”
Watching Murray go through the rehab grind — workouts, exercises, treatment — was eye-opening for Humphries, who said it’s rare to see a quarterback go through the work that it takes to get back from a major injury.
“I feel like quarterbacks are like unicorns that you never see until it’s time for them to throw a football and it’s like, ‘Oh man, that looks awesome,'” Humphries said.
“You never get to see that. You don’t get to see him like grinding, doing quad sets. So, when I got to see it, for me that was like, ‘Oh, damn, man’ That’s huge for a guy like me. I love knowing my guys are dogs. Like, I knew he was a dog on the field, but that’s different being able to battle through something like that. There’s so much turmoil and it’s so mentally tiring.”
Humphries, a nine-year veteran, didn’t think going through that kind of rehab was part of Murray’s makeup because Humphries views quarterbacks as “delicate” and not the type of football players who do the “grimy s—” that, say, offensive and defensive linemen do. But after seeing the type of work Murray put in, Humphries has a better understanding of what Murray can do and that he can grind through some pain. As Humphries put it, Murray didn’t take the approach of his knee would get healthy whenever it got healthy — Murray was going to make his knee healthy.
Humphries has always seen Murray as his franchise quarterback, but now it’s through a different lens.
Getting to know Murray on deeper levels hasn’t just helped his teammates connect with him more and see a Murray they didn’t know before. It has brought them all closer.
“You play harder for a guy that you know and love,” Murray said. “Obviously, you want to play hard in general, but it’s different when you got your brother next to you that you know what he’s been through and y’all been through it together. So, I think it was beneficial.
“I saw what he got to go through, as well, it definitely builds a different type of bond.”