GREEN BAY - Whether it’s practice, a preseason game or a regular-season game, Kyle Murphy tries to approach them all the same.
“The mindset I take is it’s another day of work,” said Murphy, the Packers’ third-year offensive tackle. “Once you get in the groove of things, it all kind of feels like football.”
That perspective served Murphy well at the beginning of last season, when he suddenly had a ton of responsibility thrust upon him. And it’s working again this year on a tough journey back from a foot injury that ended prematurely what was shaping up to be a promising 2017.
A sixth-round draft pick out of Stanford in 2016, Murphy was barely heard from as a rookie. A game-day inactive 15 of 19 times, he played in only three games, getting only limited action off the bench.
Then his second season began very differently. With right tackle Bryan Bulaga out with an ankle injury, Murphy got his first NFL start in Week 1. He then switched to left tackle for Week 2, taking over after David Bakhtiari was lost to a hamstring injury.
A third straight start, at left tackle again, showed Murphy was more than holding his own, but a significant foot injury brought it all to a halt. He was placed on injured reserve two days after the dramatic overtime victory over Cincinnati in Week 3.
Bakhtiari still needed a couple more weeks to heal, and Bulaga eventually went down again with a knee injury, so there’s no telling how Murphy’s season might have taken shape without an injury of his own. But he refused to think about it that way.
“I don’t like to play the what-ifs,” he said. “What would have happened if I didn’t get hurt? How much better would I have been or how much longer would it have lasted?
“But I like to think I’m still coming out of this injury better than I was going into it. I’m still shaking off some rust on the field, but I feel like I’m getting stronger, more flexible, smarter, as far as football IQ stuff.”
The recovery road was long. Murphy said he was running on special treadmills as recently as March, and he wasn’t doing full weight-bearing runs until April.
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He focused mainly on individual drills in spring workouts before finally getting cleared for 11-on-11 snaps during the final week of OTAs and for minicamp.
The thing he missed most was just the day-to-day grind with his teammates, whether during the season last year or in the spring, when he wasn’t on the same schedule as everyone else.
“It’s kind of tough being removed from all that,” he said. “It sounds like a cliché, but football is kind of like our sanctuary, where you can leave all the BS behind, leave all your outside problems and just go out there. It’s such a pure game.
“I’m just glad I pretty much checked all the boxes off before going into camp. I didn’t want the first week or two to be slowly climbing. They said I’ll be full-go by camp.”
Murphy ended the offseason program switching off with fellow 2016 draftee Jason Spriggs between right tackle and left tackle. The two of them, along with veteran free agent Byron Bell, will be competing in camp for a possible starting spot at right tackle if Bulaga isn’t cleared to return. Bakhtiari’s top backup also will have to be determined.
There’s plenty to play for, and Murphy has more to build on now than he did before, even if it’s not as much as it could have been.
“I think I proved I can play in this league on a big stage,” he said. “Doing that under the lights with Aaron back there the whole time will help ease your mind and make you that much more confident going forward.
“I have all the confidence in the world in myself to go out there and perform and be better than I was last time.”