On an early Friday morning, a crowd of Cardinals fans were in attendance at a training camp practice for the first time in two years, and they had loud cheers when quarterback Kyler Murray connected with receivers DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green.
That’s what usually gets fans excited in camp, and that was the case Friday.
Green brings height (6-foot-4) that can be advantageous for Murray in a group where Hopkins is 6-foot-1, Christian Kirk 5-foot-11 and rookie Rondale Moore 5-foot-7.
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury can’t wait to see what the duo can accomplish when the season begins. Especially with Green, who has been accustomed to being a marked man by defenses ever since entering the league with the Cincinnati Bengals as the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft.
Now, he won’t likely be shadowed as much with Hopkins on the field.
Kingsbury said, “I think he’s a guy who is excited to kind of show what he still has and can do and I think having both those guys on the field is going to be great.
“He definitely was excited about that. He’s always drawn the doubles, the coverage over the top and the best corner. He’s looked great, so I know he’s excited about this opportunity.”
Noting that he “always wanted another guy,” and had some in Cincinnati, he believes Kingsbury’s offense is perfect for him.
“I think this offense fits me to a tee because that's what I'm used to,” Green said. “When I first came in with (offensive coordinator) Jay Gruden, there were a lot of big posts, a lot of different outside routes. That was my bread and butter. In the last couple of years, that wasn't the case.”
He also fought injuries and admitted to pushing himself to play last year when he shouldn’t have. There were also three different quarterbacks, and after signing in March, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said, “I don't think his stats are really telling a great story about the type of player he still is. I think he was targeted 118 times and we charted 38 balls that were uncatchable.
“So he's still got a lot left in the tank, in my opinion, runs great routes, really strong in traffic, I think he was the third-best receiver in the NFL this past year with catching balls in traffic. He has really strong hands, still has the vertical speed, runs crisp routes. And he’s a guy with great character, and that was something that we look to in free agency, adding players, regardless of position, guys with great character and leadership skills.”
As for those on the outside that believe he’s past his prime, Green said of the critics, “It is what it is. It’s sports. They said LeBron (James) was done 10 years ago. They said Chris Paul was done 10 years ago and he's an MVP candidate.
“We play this game at a high level, we train at a high level and we know what we are capable of. And the way I train in the offseason, these last 11 years it's been the same, and I feel like I got a lot left.”
Hopkins returned to practice Friday after missing Thursday for what Kingsbury said was something minor, but his practice absences last year were scrutinized.
Asked about that reality along with having an offseason program this year, Kingsbury said, “It was limited obviously, but it beats what we had last year and last year Hop didn’t practice much during camp either. So by the first week, it wasn’t a lot of time on task. They definitely have a much better bond, much better chemistry and I expect them to kind of pick up where they left off last year.
“We’re going to do what’s best for him to maximize him when he gets out there. Like I said last year, he knows his body, he knows how to prepare for these games and play at a high level. So we’ll continue to work with him and see where that goes.”
Fans got an early glimpse Friday of what they can do.