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For 11 long and emotional minutes, Kyler Murray stood at a podium Thursday and defended himself and his work ethic as an athlete.
You couldn’t blame him. Earlier this week, an addendum in his recently agreed upon $230 million contract ($160 million guaranteed) with the Arizona Cardinals was made public. It required Murray complete four hours of “independent study” during the week before each game. This is in addition to studying with coaches and teammates.
It required Murray to “personally” study and not do it while “engaged in any other activity that may distract his attention” (like watching television, playing video games or browsing the internet).
Such a clause is rare, if not unheard of, in NFL contracts. And even though the team reportedly removed the clause a few days after it surfaced, it suggested the Cardinals didn't believe Murray puts in the requisite time to maximize his talents, or at least wants to protect its massive investment in its former No. 1 pick in case he doesn’t work hard enough going forward.
If not, why mention it, let alone put it in writing?
Murray was aghast at the fallout from the story and lashed out … only at the wrong targets.
He called the suggestion by fans and media that he isn’t properly driven and focused a “joke” and “disrespectful.”
“I’m flattered that y’all think that at my size (5-foot-10) I can go out there and not prepare for the game and not take it serious,” Murray said.
Actually, few, if anyone, thought that until the details of the contract came out.
Murray is an undersized quarterback who nonetheless won the Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma (while also playing baseball), rose to the top of the draft and was the NFL offensive rookie of the year. Murray joined a 3-13 team and in three seasons got them to the playoffs.
It hasn’t been perfect. There remain questions about his ceiling and durability, but the above resume just doesn’t happen by accident.
"Of course, I watch film by myself, that's a given," Murray said. "That doesn't even need to be said.”
It didn’t … until the Cardinals decided to mention it in the contract, Murray’s agent left it there, and then Murray himself signed the deal.
If Murray studying film by himself doesn’t need to be said, then why was it said … and agreed to by Murray himself?
Murray should be upset that this all came out. It questions his professionalism. It questions his commitment. It questions his leadership. It questions everything.
But none of it had to come out.
He should be upset at the Cardinals, who apparently came up with it. The entire addendum is ridiculous and serves no purpose other than to seemingly embarrass their franchise quarterback. What would Arizona do this? Who knows, other than this is Arizona.
Exactly how would the franchise prove that Murray isn’t engaged in “independent study” which could be occurring at his home anyway? How would they know a video game isn’t being played on a different device, or the television isn’t on in the room?
The contract doesn’t mention putting cameras inside Murray’s house or tracking his every move on the internet.
So it’s a mostly unenforceable clause that somehow turned a positive for the Cardinals — locking up their star quarterback for the future — into a character assassination, and thus placed a question mark over him.
The team did that. Not the fans and media who simply consumed the information the way any reasonable person would.
And Murray did that by agreeing to the deal. That’s what a contract is. Here are the terms, here are the clauses, and here is the compensation. Murray should have gotten this stricken before accepting it. Instead, he got what he got.
“I refuse to let my work ethic, my [preparation] to be in-question,” Murray said. “I have put in an incomprehensible amount of time and blood, sweat, tears and work into what I do, whether it's football or baseball. People can't comprehend the amount of time that it takes to do two sports at a high level in college, let alone be the first person to do it ever at my size. It's funny.
“But to those of you out there that believe that I'd be standing here today, in front of y'all, without having a work ethic and without preparing, I'm honored that you think that. But it doesn't exist. It's not possible. It's not possible.”
The frustration is understandable. The hurt feelings too.
It’s the Arizona Cardinals, though, who drew up the addendum that called his preparation into question.
And Kyler Murray who, for some reason, agreed to it.