Cardinals star Kyler Murray eyes return Sunday vs. Bears

‘‘You don’t really stop him; you just contain what he does,’’ inside linebacker Christian Jones said.

SHARE Cardinals star Kyler Murray eyes return Sunday vs. Bears
Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks

Kyler Murray warms up before the Seahawks game, though he did not appear in it.

Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The Bears faced Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady — perhaps the two greatest quarterbacks of all time — in back-to-back weeks in October. It has been all downhill from there: Jimmy Garoppolo after rumors he’d be benched, the noodle-armed husk of Ben Roethlisberger, second-stringer Tyler Huntley and, well, Jared Goff.

That run of quarterback luck ends Sunday — probably — when the Cardinals return potential league MVP Kyler Murray to game action.

Murray sprained his left ankle Oct. 28 against the Packers and has missed the Cardinals’ last three games. Coming off a bye, he was a limited practice participant Wednesday. Murray told reporters after practice that he was ‘‘hopeful’’ he could play Sunday but didn’t give a percentage chance.

Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said he wanted to ease Murray — as well as wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who played 15 snaps against the Packers and not a down since because of a hamstring injury — back into practice. He plans to ramp both up during a padded practice Thursday.

Like they did with Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson before he was eventually knocked out by illness last month, the Bears are preparing as though Murray — not backup Colt McCoy — will play.

“You don’t really stop him; you just contain what he does,” inside linebacker Christian Jones said. “I think that’s what we’re going to [try] our best to do with him. They’ve got a lot of good players, so we just kind of gotta understand situations, understand what they’re trying to do and go out there and execute.”

The irony is that the Bears have a player who comes as close as anyone in the NFL to solving the riddle of the mobile quarterback — he just doesn’t figure to play Sunday after hurting his hamstring against the Lions. Inside linebacker Roquan Smith’s unique side-to-side quickness is a far better match for Murray than Jones, his 30-year-old replacement. Smith did not practice Wednesday.

Despite Murray averaging 6.1 carries per game, Bears coach Matt Nagy said what has made Murray an MVP candidate — he’s tied with Patrick Mahomes with the fourth-best odds, behind Brady, Josh Allen and Rodgers, according to FanDuel — has been his passing acumen. His 110.4 passer rating and 8.9 yards per pass lead all starting quarterbacks. His 72.7 completion percentage is No. 1 among quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts.

Jaylon Johnson, the Bears’ No. 1 cornerback, doesn’t need a scouting report.

“Kyler is Kyler,” he said. “I’ve been watching him since high school. So, I mean, his ability to run and extend plays — he has a very strong arm. With that combination of speed and arm talent, it’s very hard to guard. But everybody just has to do their job. We’ve got to contain him up front, and then in the back end, we’ve got to cover.”

Johnson admitted to wanting Jackson to play for the Ravens so the Bears could face the best.

“I don’t want any of the top guys to miss a game,” he said.

He might end up regretting that. Rodgers owned the Bears, and Brady threw for four touchdowns against them. There’s no telling what Murray can do for a team that, were the playoffs to begin today, would be the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

Murray sounded eager to return, saying that thinking about the injury “can eat at you.”

“I’m in a good headspace, feel fine,” he said. “We’re 9-2. We have the best record in the league. Obviously, none of that matters right now. Got to keep going. I’m excited for where we are as a team. . . . I like where we’re at.”

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