“Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.”

Please pardon me for beginning this story with the opening words from the daytime soap opera, Days of Our Lives, which has been broadcasting for 57 years.

I couldn’t help it. With 29 days remaining in 2022 as I contemplated this bye-week look back at what this year has wrought on the Arizona Cardinals, all the drama could only be compared to a soap opera.

But which one? It could be a multiple-choice question all of you can ponder:

  1. Days of Our Lives
  2. General Hospital
  3. The Young and the Restless
  4. All of the above

Seems to me all of the above is the only answer.

We all know what a long, strange trip it has been, but as notes were being compiled, my main concern was I would forget some because there’s simply so much. More than any team should bear.

Of course, it all began within days of the team’s playoff loss to the Rams when quarterback Kyler Murray believed it would be a good idea to scrub all photos and references to the Cardinals from his Instagram account. That was followed by a Super Bowl Sunday tweet from ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, saying there was an “odd vibe” between the team and Murray that was “alarming.” He continued, “Murray is described as self-centered, immature and a finger pointer, per sources. Murray is frustrated with the franchise and was embarrassed by playoff loss to Rams and thinks he’s been framed as the scapegoat.”

Then, as the Scouting Combine commenced, and only three days after owner Michael Bidwill publicly said the team was committed to signing Murray to a long-term contract, but cautioned these complicated deals for quarterbacks entering their fourth season usually don’t happen until the summer, agent Erik Burkhardt unleashed an all-caps fusillade with a few factual errors that said the time was now to sign Murray.

Amid that scenario came the stunning announcement at the Combine that general manager Steve Keim and coach Kliff Kingsbury (who is also represented by Burkhardt) both received contract extensions through the 2027 season.

Still, Burkhardt continued to publicly question the organization’s commitment to winning, which surely did not sit well with Bidwill and just might have been the motivation to include the infamous independent study clause in Murray’s eventual contract (which did happen in the summer) along with unusually high bonuses totaling over $9 million for attending the team’s voluntary offseason workouts.

Those were often forgotten because of the uproar over the “homework” clause, but it is similarly eye-opening that it was necessary to need that to motivate Murray to be with the team for OTAs.

No one emerged from the continuous scrum unscathed, including the Cardinals after the clause was removed. However, the club raised eyebrows with a comment saying, the clause “was clearly perceived in ways that were never intended.” How did they think it would be perceived?

Naturally, that wasn’t the only story that dominated the offseason news cycle.

The team’s personnel strategy was to eschew adding high-priced free agents from other teams and re-sign key players like running back James Conner and tight end Zach Ertz, while knowing new contracts were on the horizon for Murray, tackle D.J. Humphries and safety Jalen Thompson.

Also looming was the potential retirement of center Rodney Hudson, who had been acquired in a trade from the Raiders in 2021, and was instrumental in the team winning 10 of its first 12 games. Hudson’s value was clear: The Cardinals were 9-3 with him on the field during the regular season and 2-3 without him.

Because of that uncertainty, the Cardinals hoped to select center Tyler Linderbaum with the 23rd overall selection in the April draft. Those plans were waylaid when they learned elite receiver DeAndre Hopkins would miss the first six games of the season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing drugs. That resulted in a draft-night trade with Baltimore that brought receiver Hollywood Brown to the Cardinals for that No. 1 pick.

There was still hope to land a center after Linderbaum was, yes, selected by the Ravens, but the next target, Cam Jurgens, was grabbed by the Eagles four choices in front of the Cardinals in the second round.

Hudson eventually decided to play after skipping OTAs and minicamp, but hardly practiced in training camp because of a knee issue. He played the first four games, in which the record was 2-2, but hasn’t been seen since as the record plummeted to 4-8. The current center, Billy Price, wasn’t in camp with any NFL team and was signed by the Cardinals off the Raiders practice squad on Oct. 4. Sixteen days later he was the starter against the Saints.

Offseason tragedy also struck with the death of cornerback Jeff Gladney in a car accident on May 30. Gladney, a 2020 first-round pick of the Vikings, did not play in 2021 after being released because of allegations of domestic violence. He was acquitted in March and quickly signed a reasonable two-year deal with the Cardinals.

Early in camp, running backs coach James Saxon was placed on administrative leave after allegations of a May domestic violence incident became public. Saxon eventually resigned after pleading guilty in October.

All teams experience a certain level of injuries in training camp, but the summer in Glendale set the stage for a never-ending litany of crowded injury reports when the season began.

Murray suffered a minor wrist injury and also missed time because of COVID, as did defensive end J.J. Watt, who didn’t travel with the team to Nashville for what was supposed to be two practices with the Titans prior to the third preseason game. The Cardinals had so many players banged up, they practiced only once with the Titans.

Ertz and Watt were hampered by calf injuries, which had Ertz on a snap count for the season opener, a game in which Watt was inactive. Ertz eventually landed on reserve/injured after undergoing knee surgery for an injury suffered in Week 10 against the Rams, while Watt had a scare prior a few days prior to the Week 4 game against Carolina when he had his heart shocked back into rhythm, but played.

Wide receiver Antoine Wesley, expected to be a contributor with Hopkins out, suffered a hip injury in camp, was placed on reserve/injured and after being designated for return, aggravated the injury and was lost for the entire season.

In November, he was seen hobbling around the team facility on crutches.

There was also the supposed stomach bug that had Humphries on the sideline during camp, but it miraculously disappared after there was finally a contract agreement. Humphries is now done for the season because of a back injury.

Injuries piled up for left guard Justin Pugh, who had also contemplated retirement in the offseason. As security, the Cardinals acquired Cody Ford from Buffalo on Aug. 22, and he was to be the starter in the opener with Pugh out because of a neck injury.

Best-laid plans. Ford suffered an ankle injury in practice three days before the game and was placed on reserve/injured. He missed the first six games of the season, and was activated for the game against the Saints after the team had only walkthroughs before the short-week Thursday game against New Orleans. Pugh suffered a knee injury the previous Sunday against Seattle and was out for the season.

Ford ended up playing 80 percent of the snaps after starter Max Garcia exited with a shoulder injury. Garcia was with the Cardinals in 2021, but signed with the Giants as an unrestricted free agent on March 28. He was cut and added to the Giants practice squad, but injuries to Pugh and Ford prompted the Cardinals to sign him on Sept. 10.

In that same opening-week Thursday practice, wide receiver Rondale Moore, who was expected to have a large role in the offense, injured his hamstring and missed three games. He is now on the shelf again with a groin injury.

Brown broke a bone in his foot in the same game Pugh was lost, delaying him being on the field the same time as Hopkins until lasty Sunday’s game against the Chargers.

Cornerback Antonio Hamilton, who was on his way to a starting cornerback, missed the first four games after suffering severe burns in a cooking accident.

Conner left two games early and eventually missed three games with an injury to his ribs. Kicker Matt Prater missed four games, with the costliest the Week 5 20-17 loss to the Eagles when replacement Matt Ammendola missed a game-tying 43-yard field-goal attempt.

Right guard Will Hernandez played the first nine snaps in the second loss to the Seahawks, but left with a pectoral injury and is on reserve/injured. Cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. has missed the last three games because of a back injury.

There was more drama with the release of running back Eno Benjamin after he played one offensive snap in Week 10 against the Rams and reportedly expressed his displeasure on the sideline with an assistant coach, an incident that apparently spilled into the locker room. Somehow, it was claimed the ubiquitous Hard Knocks cameras failed to see any of it.

The following week, offensive line coach/run game coordinator Sean Kugler was sent home from Mexico City and fired after allegedly groping a woman.

This, of course, all occurred with Murray suffering his fifth injury in four seasons as the team’s quarterback and missed two games with an injured hamstring.

His season hasn’t been without drama, thanks to yelling at Kingsbury to “calm the f—” down, having an animated conversation with Hopkins, and then being called out this week by former teammate Patrick Peterson, who said Murray cares only about himself.

Of course, this is the same Peterson that, during the offseason, hailed Murray for being a great competitor.

Murray drew criticism from those that overreacted and perceived his comment that “schemastically we were kinda f’ed” as a shot at Kingsbury when he was talking about one play in which the Chargers had the play-call perfectly defensed and Kingsbury explained Murray had to go into “scramble mode.”

Hey, why let the facts get in the way of a good rant.

The overall reality of this lost season is that the Cardinals:

Have lost to teams with a combined record of 56-32;

Have had games played by 77 players;

Only 17 have played all 12 games;

Only five have started all 12 games with one on offense, right tackle Kelvin Beachum, with the others defensive end Zach Allen, linebacker Zaven Collins and safeties Budda Baker and Thompson;

Only 13 have started at least nine games and 48 players have started at least one game;

Projected starters (including Prater) have missed a combined 69 starts;

Currently have 11 players, six of whom are starters, on reserve/injured and there are even two players on the practice-squad injured list;

Consistent roster shuffling has resulted in 59 players participating on special teams.

Still, acknowledging what’s truly important in these days of our lives, there has been joy for Ertz and Watt, who each became fathers for the first time in the last four months. Julie Ertz and Kealia Watt, both U.S. soccer players, gave birth to boys in August and November, respectively.

Ah, the young and the restless!

Note: In part two Monday, there will be a deep dive with a closer look at games played for the Cardinals in 2022.

Don’t hesitate to comment or ask questions on Twitter @hbalzer721 or email me: howard@gophnx.com


Howard Balzer is in his 47th year covering professional football as a writer, editor and broadcaster and has covered 41 Super Bowls. His connection with pro football began in 1976 with College and Pro Football Newsweekly, and since then he has been a featured columnist for The Sporting News, Pro Football Weekly, USA Today Sports Weekly and The Sports Xchange. Balzer moved to St. Louis in 1978 to work for The Sporting News, where he became Pro Football Editor in 1979. He was an analyst on ESPN's initial broadcast of the NFL Draft in 1980 and continued in that role through 1988. He has won seven writing awards in the Professional Football Writers of America competition, won an Emmy for commentaries on KPLR-TV in St. Louis in 1986 and was nominated for an Emmy in 1988 and 1990. He was named the 2016 winner of the Bob Broeg Media Award presented by the St. Louis/Tom Lombardo Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame. The award is for enthusiasm, integrity, professionalism and devotion to the game of football and is reserved for individuals whose contributions to football in the St. Louis area have made a significant difference. Balzer was an officer (secretary and secretary/treasurer) for the Professional Football Writers of America for 33 years and was inducted into the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2010. Balzer relocated to the Phoenix area in 2020 as the publisher of the FanNation AllCardinals site and is now the Cardinals reporter for PHNX. He is entering his 19th year as one of 49 voting members on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is also on the Hall's Seniors Committee. He is the co-host of the weekly Pro Football Hall of Fame radio show on SiriusXM NFL Radio and is a part-time host at ArizonaSports 98.7 FM.