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When Cardinals QB Kyler Murray Could Return From ACL Injury

The Arizona Cardinals are looking to see Kyler Murray return at some point - but when can we expect that?

We've got a long way until the Arizona Cardinals play football - head coach Jonathan Gannon knows that especially. 

His first offseason running the show in the desert has been full of ups and downs, but the opportunity for cleats to touch grass with offseason activities ramping up the next few weeks should afford Gannon and the rest of his staff talking points that are centered around x's and o's, not tabloid material. 

Yet the return of quarterback Kyler Murray - who suffered a torn ACL in the late stages of the 2022 regular season - will be a regular question asked in press conferences until we see Murray himself running out of the tunnel at State Farm Stadium. 

All offseason, Gannon has provided us with fairly positive updates on Murray's recovery. That was again the case when he met with reporters at the beginning of rookie minicamp:

"I know he's making strides. I mean, he's a long way away, but we don't play for a long time either. So I feel good where he's at," Gannon said.

"I gave him some hard questions yesterday in a team meeting and he was on it. We had some bets on if he was going to get it right or wrong - he got it right. I took some money from some guys, and then he got mad that he heard somebody bet against him. But he's competitive. He's ultra-competitive. He's got fire in his gut. And that's what you want out of your trigger guy."

Murray appears to be making great progress, that's taking the word of Gannon with Murray himself sprinkling little updates on social media, such as posting a video of him squatting just 13 weeks removed from his surgery. 

As a competitor, Murray will push to come back as soon as possible. Yet Arizona has been fairly consistent in saying they will not rush him back under any circumstances. 

So when can we expect him back on the field? 

There's a lot of variables - almost too many - to make a legitimate, realistic guess. Healing from injuries (especially significant ones) all depends on the athlete, the severity of the tear, how surgery goes and how the body responds to recovery/rehab. 

ACL injuries typically take eight-nine months to recover from, but even then, players still take an extended period of time trying to regain their form and confidence.

Nobody really knows any of that outside of Murray's camp and Arizona's training staff, and it will likely be kept that way until he's truly close to returning. 

A report from NFL insider Ian Rapoport earlier in the offseason suggested Murray could miss up to half of the season. 

"My understanding is he's going to take his time and make sure this thing is 100% right. He's young, he's got a long career - he's not going to rush," Rapoport said. "Do not be surprised if we do not see him to start the season, or maybe even by the midway point. This injury has to heal perfectly."

If Rapoport's suggestion of taking the first half of the season to recover unfolds to be true, that will leave Arizona with the remaining nine games to work with:

Week 10: Atlanta Falcons

Week 11: AT Houston Texans

Week 12: Los Angeles Rams

Week 13: AT Pittsburgh Steelers

Week 14: BYE

Week 15: San Francisco 49ers

Week 16: AT Chicago Bears

Week 17: AT Philadelphia Eagles

Week 18: Seattle Seahawks

Obviously Murray can return at any point, but should the Cardinals be as bad as many expect them to be (they're not favored in a single game next year), they could very well be mathematically eliminated from postseason contention by time their bye week returns, if not way sooner. 

That affords Murray the luxury of not having to be rushed back into action for a potential playoff push. At the same time, however, the Cardinals will still want to get Murray a respectable amount of games to not only find his footing and confidence on the field, but to also have some live reps in the new offense under coordinator Drew Petzing heading into 2024. 

Ideally, you would figure Murray would want around six games (1/3 of the schedule) to work with, which would put him right around that Week 12 home game against the Los Angeles Rams. 

That could be a good spot for a return, or even the next week on the road in Pittsburgh. Arizona's bye is the following week and that would give the Cardinals some time to see how Murray's knee holds up while not completely rushing him back into things. 

The Cardinals know they have a massive investment in Murray, and his long-term health is more important than getting him back as soon as possible in 2023. 

Week 12 or 13 feels like a good time for Murray to make his return - that allows him plenty of time to heal in the beginning part of the season and better understand the offensive mentally while also giving him a solid stretch of games to work back from injury with, especially with a bye week coming one or two weeks after just to ensure things are still going well.