Some credit for Aaron Murray’s big day at practice on Wednesday, the Chiefs’ final workout at camp before Saturday’s preseason opener at Arizona, goes to the men he wants to supplant: Alex Smith and Chase Daniel.
“I’ve been taking what they’ve taught me over the past year, Alex and Chase and the coaches, and have applied it in practice, and it’s up to me to take advantage of it,” Murray said.
Why would the quarterbacks ahead of Murray on the Chiefs’ depth chart lend a helping hand, and in essence risk their positions? This is how the process works.
“We all have our roles,” Murray said. “Whether it’s in the meeting room, out here on the practice fields. But at the same time, you’re competing with everything you have. You wouldn’t be in the NFL if you weren’t a competitor. But we’re a team first. This is an unselfish game. We’re looking to help each other.”
That’s why Smith gave Murray some counseling on go routes earlier in the week. Murray applied the lesson in practice and teamed with rookie Da’Ron Brown twice, an over-the-shoulder fade and a perfectly placed deep ball that Brown caught in stride, the kind of connection the Chiefs sorely missed last season.
Earlier, L’Damian Washington laid out and hauled in a deep ball from Murray. Andy Reid took notice.
“He’s getting better every day,” Reid said. “Every day, he’s making improvements. He threw a pick (Tuesday) and came back and did a pretty good job. That last throw he had was beautiful.”
Life isn’t always easy for the third-team quarterback. Murray works with other nonstarters, layers of personnel who may or may not be with the team beyond a few weeks.
“It’s tough sometimes with him because you have lot of moving parts in his group in the huddle,” Smith said. “I just told him, ‘Don’t try to counteract that … throw it confidently.’”
Murray’s confidence figured to grow from his rookie to second season, but this burst includes more than comfort in the system.
Surgery occurred three days after the injury, but not in time for Murray to participate in any postseason showcase games or the NFL Scouting Combine. The injury, and his 6-foot-1 frame, likely cost Murray a round or two in the draft.
Favoring Murray was experience. He had spent five years in college, started 52 games and became the Southeastern Conference career leader in passing touchdowns. Murray arrived in Kansas City as the third-team quarterback and didn’t play as a rookie.
But the Chiefs were encouraged by his offseason workouts. Murray added about 5 pounds, and it’s made a difference.
“Especially in the legs,” Murray said. “Coming off last season, which I was coming off the ACL, my goal was to get stronger. This was the first offseason where I could work off my legs. It’s really helped me drive through throws.”
If the Chiefs follow the script, Murray will play for 11/2 quarters against the Cardinals. Smith and the starters will get the first quarter, and Daniel and the second team is expected to play the second quarter and half of the third quarter.
For Murray, the workouts, training camp and preseason games are his evaluation period. Once the season begins, he wears a baseball cap.
“It’s the most reps I get during the year,” Murray said. “I really have to take advantage of it.”
Chiefs’ preseason opener
▪ WHO: Chiefs at Arizona Cardinals
▪ WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday
▪ WHERE: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
▪ TV: KCTV, Channel 5