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Cardinals 'to be smart' with DeAndre Hopkins' path back to field as Kyler Murray also nears return

Kyler Murray has had a month to get his ankle right, which means he's had a lot of time to think about his injury.

Murray seems to be passing that ailment on the 2021 season's highway, if he hasn't already put it completely in his rearview mirror. His Arizona Cardinals teammate, DeAndre Hopkins, appears to be riding shotgun.

Both took the practice field on Wednesday, Hopkins' first practice since late October. They just might return to game action together, too.

"We've just got to be smart with how we use him if he's able to go," Kingsbury said of Hopkins, via the team’s official site. "Maximize him the best we can and make sure we don't wear him out."

Murray seems more likely to return this weekend, when the Cardinals return from their bye week to face the Chicago Bears. He was able to get some practice work in before the week off, but as is the case with Hopkins, the Cardinals will be cautious with the quarterback. Murray's already missed Arizona's last three games, and the Cardinals are 2-1 with Colt McCoy in his place.

Arizona has held onto its lead atop the NFC West thanks to these efforts, but it hasn't come without some mental struggles for Murray, who has been forced to watch his team compete without him.

"All this stuff plays with your head until you get back on the field," Murray said. "It can eat at you. But I am over it at this point. I'm in a good headspace."

His good headspace could lead him back to the field against Chicago, though a bit of caution is still advised, as we've gone through a similar process of will he, won't he in each of the last three weeks leading up to kickoff for the Cardinals.

Arizona has chosen patience. It might end up paying off plenty, especially if Hopkins proves to be on a similar recovery/return track.

"These guys have played a lot of football," Kingsbury said. "I don't expect there to be some long drawn-out kind of recovery period for them to get acclimated and playing at a high level again."

With the postseason a little over a month away, it will soon be time to ramp up to playoff-level performance. The Cardinals are building speed and preparing to merge into traffic at the front of the pack.

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