GREEN BAY – Kyle Murphy had a lot working against him as the rookie offensive tackle made his NFL preseason debut last Thursday night.
He had missed the bulk of the Packers' offseason program due to Stanford's school calendar. He's been making a switch from left tackle, the position he played last year, to right tackle, his college spot back in 2014. He missed two weeks of training camp recovering from a concussion.
And, oh yeah, he was lining up for his first NFL snaps across from Bruce Irvin, the veteran pass rusher with 22 sacks over four seasons with Seattle before signing a big free-agent contract in Oakland.
The fact that Murphy held his own and did not look out of place is a testament to the smarts and experience – 27 starts for Pac-12 contender Stanford over the past two years – that led to the Packers drafting him in the sixth round this past spring. It was also a reflection of the mental approach that has always served the 6-6, 305-pounder well.
"I just try to make nothing bigger than it actually is," Murphy said. "Once you start overthinking it and get tensed up, that's when you lose your fundamentals, and you look like a player you haven't been in practice and your whole career."
Murphy's debut was by no means perfect. He saw "technical flaws" on the game film, perhaps due to rustiness from the concussion absence. He also admitted to being anxious, getting ribbed by the veteran linemates about first-game jitters and knowing the rest of the rookie class got its collective feet wet against Cleveland the previous week.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous as hell all day," he said.
But it didn't show, and there's something to be said for that, even for a player who finished his college career starting in the Rose Bowl. Murphy also watched film of Irvin only from Oakland's first preseason game against Arizona, checking out his potential matchups further down the Raiders' depth chart as well.
In the second quarter, Murphy ended up playing 16 of his three dozen snaps in the game against Irvin, and the speedy pass rusher's only statistical entry was a QB hit on a scrambling Joe Callahan on a failed fourth-and-1.
"Even going through college, when you face an elite guy like that, everyone always says, 'Make sure you rely on your fundamentals. That's what will take care of you, no matter how good a player you're going against,'" Murphy said.
Head Coach Mike McCarthy credited Murphy for "battling through" the game when conditioning was likely an issue due to his two weeks away. The missed time could be a factor in Murphy not taking many snaps outside of right tackle so far when the Packers' general practice is to make young linemen as versatile as possible.
He was getting some work at left tackle before the concussion, so that may resume now over the final two weeks of training camp. Either way, Murphy just wants to finally get in the daily rhythm of practice and game preparation and continue to show the NFL stage isn't too big for him over Green Bay's final two preseason games.
"The pressure you put on yourself and the team puts on you is a little more crucial in those situations," he said. "I just try to take it in stride and think football is football, whether that be in drill work or team reps in practice or full live in a game.
"I just try to keep it simple."