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Kliff Kingsbury says Kyler Murray’s homework clause is no big deal

Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, left, must watch four hours of prep video every week under the terms of his new contract. Coach Kliff Kingsbury, right, said he’s never worried about Murray’s study habits. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

The Arizona Cardinals seemingly cut short any contract drama they might have had with quarterback Kyler Murray last week by signing the two-time Pro Bowl selection to a new deal, one in which he will become one of the NFL’s highest-paid players. Rumors about discontent between quarterback and front office had been bubbling throughout the offseason, particularly after Murray’s agent released a statement to reporters in February that said “actions speak much louder than words in this volatile business” and that it was “simply up to the Cardinals to decide if they prioritize” Murray as their franchise quarterback.

But a clause in Murray’s new contract is causing a stir because it mandates that the quarterback complete at least four hours of “independent study” each week during the season, preparation that goes beyond film sessions with his teammates at the team facility.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport got his hands on Murray’s contract and posted the clause on Twitter.

“ ‘Independent Study’ means Player studies the material provided to him by the Club in order to prepare for the Club’s next upcoming game, including without limitations any such material provided via an iPad or other electronic device,” the clause reads. “Time spent in mandatory meetings shall not constitute Independent Study.”

The clause goes on to say that Murray will not receive any credit if he “is not personally studying or watching the material while it is being displayed or played” or if he “is engaged in any other activity that may distract his attention (for example, watching television, playing video games or browsing the internet) while such material is being displayed or played.”

How the team will track Murray’s weekly homework is not detailed, but it does say that if Murray falls short of his weekly goals, he will be considered to be in default and the $230.5 million deal will be void.

While contract clauses that prohibit players from engaging in risky behavior — playing other contact sports, riding dangerous vehicles, etc. — are common, former Green Bay Packers front-office executive Andrew Brandt said he has never seen a homework stipulation in an NFL contract before.

The Cardinals may have been spurred to include the clause in Murray’s contract after he downplayed the importance of watching film in comments he made to the New York Times in December.

“I think I was blessed with the cognitive skills to just go out there and just see it before it happens,” Murray said. “I’m not one of those guys that’s going to sit there and kill myself watching film. I don’t sit there for 24 hours and break down this team and that team and watch every game because, in my head, I see so much.”

On Tuesday, Cardinals Coach Kliff Kingsbury told reporters he didn’t think the clause was a big deal and said he’s never worried about Murray’s study habits.

“I have not,” Kingsbury said. “When I watched what he’s done since he got here, the first year and his development in all areas, all he’s done is gotten dramatically better each and every year. That’s what I judge it by.

“There’s a handful of quarterbacks you can with the Super Bowl with in this league and we feel like he’s one of them, and I wouldn’t want to work with anybody else.”

Kingsbury added that he wasn’t uncomfortable after the homework clause became public knowledge.

“No, because my man’s got a quarter of a billion dollars so you can only be upset for so long, I guess,” he said. “Negotiations are negotiations, everybody has their things and wants different stuff. I’m just thrilled that this young man got what I felt he deserves.”

No matter how much game film he’s watched, Murray-quarterbacked teams have tended to falter as the season wears on. The Cardinals have gone 15-8-1 in their first eight games of the season over Murray’s three years as their starting quarterback but have gone 7-15 in the second half of those seasons in games Murray started. (He missed three second-half games last season with an ankle injury.)

The New York Times story also relayed an anecdote about how Murray went home to play a Call of Duty video game after his signature moment as an NFL quarterback, his 43-yard “Hail Murray” touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins in November 2020 that gave Arizona a 32-30 win over the Buffalo Bills. New entries in the Call of Duty series are released in late October or early November, and Murray’s NFL numbers have followed a similar pattern after each new version has been released.

In games played before the annual Call of Duty release date over his career, Murray has averaged 22.5 fantasy points. In games played after the annual Call of Duty release date, Murray has averaged 17.4 fantasy points — a decline of 22.7 percent.