Arizona Cardinals tackle D.J. Humphries had an eventful last few months.
He signed a three-year extension to remain with Arizona before free agency, got married and has navigated an offseason altered by coronavirus and impacted by protests in favor of racial equality.
On a Zoom call Monday, Humphries spoke about the Cardinals’ internal discussions about racism, the development of quarterback Kyler Murray and center Mason Cole, and the general feeling about an eventual return amid a pandemic.
Diverse O-line room talks racial injustices
Intimate talks were had between Humphries and his teammates in the offensive line room after the death of George Floyd sparked protests denouncing racism and police brutality three weeks ago.
Humphries said talks with his white teammates have been revealing. But it’s been a safe haven for honest discourse — and listening — something that unfortunately hasn’t been the case in all other settings.
“The O-line room is so mixed of cultures,” he said. “I feel like if the world was like the O-line room, the world would be … so much kumbaya. It would be a lot chunkier. It would be a hefty world.”
Cardinals will unify about any anthem protests
Last week, Larry Fitzgerald said the team has not discussed how or if it will use the national anthem to protest equality for black people and the end of police brutality in the United States.
At some point, it will come up. Humphries will be listening to leaders like Fitzgerald, Corey Peters and Patrick Peterson to come to a unified conclusion about how to speak out against racism.
“Those are guys I lean on in times like this,” Humphries said.
The left tackle did say that he feels it’s important to use his voice. He believes apologies from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Drew Brees were a start to get white men in the NFL to begin listening and fighting as black players’ allies.
Goodell apologized for how he handled former quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the anthem in 2017 — but he did not name the quarterback. Brees apologized after being scrutinized for suggesting kneeling was disrespectful to the flag of the United States.
“With Goodell … I’m not a business man and understand how business works,” Humphries said. “I will say that I would have liked to have heard Colin Kaepernick’s name in that apology. I will say when Drew Brees apologized, I would have liked to see his face like I saw his face when he made the original remarks.
“I understand that people were taught different things than I was taught,” he added. “(White people) apologize for not understanding. That’s the first step. You were wrong, cool, now we can talk about this.”
Confidence in a new starting center
From the looks of it at this point in the offseason, Cardinals center A.Q. Shipley will not be back with the team.
In his place will be Mason Cole, the third-year pro who spent his rookie year starting 16 games and last season acted as a do-it-all backup.
Cardinals brass have spoken about Cole’s grasp of the offense and athleticism that fits the scheme. It appears his teammates have all the confidence in him despite their respect for the outgoing Shipley.
“I’m going to tell you my favorite thing about Mason: Me and Mason are very similar in the likeness of (a) scrappy dude,” Humphries said. “We’re not the biggest guys on the O-line. Mason knows that no matter what happens on this play, he’s going to fire off the ball and try to hit you as hard as he can, and once you make contact he’s going to run his feet. ‘I don’t care if that’s Aaron Donald … I don’t care who’s across from me.’”
Players have varying concerns about coronavirus
Admittedly, Humphries does not worry about the coronavirus affecting himself. He believes that his job already comes with its serious health risks.
But with a family and a wife who has pre-existing health conditions, he knows that the potential for him getting coronavirus could impact those around him. Safe to say he will be wearing a mask if the NFL welcomes players back to team facilities for camp in July or later.
“I know how dangerous it is to play football in a contact aspect. I think me getting the coronavirus and playing is not so much about what I’m worrying about. I think so much more of what I’m worried about is me contracting it and bringing it home and giving it to my family.
“I think playing with no fans, I won’t be opposed to that, either. I’m not going to act like I don’t play offensive line also and I run my face into 300-pound men on a daily basis … I’m going to be ready to go.”
That said, Humphries believes other players he talks to have varying concerns about the virus.
“Some guys live with their elderly mother. Some guys, I mean, they’re single guys and it’s just them and a dog at home,” he said. “Everyone has a different opinion on it. I think that’s why it’s going to be interesting to see how the NFL responds to it. Every time I talk to different players, they have a different opinion on it.”
Kyler Murray’s confidence grows
Kliff Kingsbury has seen quarterback Kyler Murray’s command grow this offseason, and to Humphries, the second-year quarterback’s development is about finding comfort in being himself.
More and more, his confidence has been expressed in how his work ethic matches his lofty personal goals.
“I think the thing he’s doing himself is kind of becoming himself, realizing that he can be Kyler Murray and not have to try to stand up in the light and be this guy,” Humphries said. “It’s cool to be himself and be the guy that you think you are … I’m excited to his his progression from Year 1 to Year 2. I think he’s going to explode.
“Because he’s so confident in himself, he’s all about backing up what he says and what he feels about himself.”