'Priceless' snaps at left tackle keeping Kyle Murphy 'ambidextrous'

Third-year offensive tackle ready for whatever opportunities he’s afforded in David Bakhtiari’s absence


GREEN BAY - Naturally, there was a part of Kyle Murphy pondering the hypotheticals.

What if he didn't hurt his foot late in the Packers' Week 3 game against the Cincinnati Bengals? What if left tackle began to feel more like home rather than a spot Murphy was thrust into after the freak hamstring injury All-Pro David Bakhtiari suffered in Green Bay's 2017 season-opening win over Seattle?

All things considered, Murphy played winning football in spot starts against Atlanta and Cincinnati in 2017. The former sixth-round pick was just settling in when he injured his foot on the third- or fourth-to-last play of regulation against the Bengals last September.

Murphy toughed it out and finished the game but was placed on injured reserve two days later when it was confirmed the injury would require season-ending surgery to repair.

"It was tough, especially where the offensive line state was at the time. You were letting everybody down," Murphy said. "We were all banged up. From a personal standpoint, it was tough because you're trying to stack some success and get some good reps in there. You never want to be, in hindsight, (looking at it like) what if I didn't get hurt and how it would all play out, but everything happens for a reason."

It took about a week or so, but eventually Murphy put the disappointment behind him and shifted his focus to being ready for his third NFL season in 2018.

Limited but available for most of the offseason program after getting the screws removed from his foot in March, Murphy was cleared to participate in 11-on-11 work during the last week of organized team activities.

With zero setbacks, Murphy has spent a majority of the first two weeks of training camp rotating with 2016 draft classmate Jason Spriggs and Byron Bell for first-team reps at right tackle with starter Bryan Bulaga recovering from knee surgery.

That's where Murphy was stationed during Saturday's Family Night practice until he had to slide back to left tackle when Bakhtiari exited practice with an ankle injury and didn't return.

Both Head Coach Mike McCarthy and Bakhtiari confirmed on Monday the injury wasn't significant, with Bakhtiari equating it to "the typical basketball sprained ankle."

"Obviously it's something you don't want to have happen, obviously you don't want to get hurt," Bakhtiari said. "But thankfully nothing catastrophic, nothing that is going to derail anything moving forward."

While Bakhtiari takes the necessary precautions, Murphy knows any extra reps thrown his way are valuable – especially with Thursday's preseason opener against Tennessee on the horizon.

After playing both tackle positions at Stanford, Murphy estimates he's split his snaps about 70-30 between right and left in Green Bay. He'd taken a bulk of his snaps at right tackle last summer prior to Bakhtiari's hamstring injury and believes getting thrown into the fire on the left side only further enhanced his development.

"You've got to look at everything in this league like that when you can get reps. A lot of guys are on 90-man rosters that would die for reps like that," Murphy said. "Since I got here, I feel like I've been on the right side more than not.

"To get back to thinking that way and consistently being able to play on the left side is big, while keeping that right side somewhat consistent because it's keeping me ambidextrous. I can go back over there and feel pretty good. These reps at left are priceless. I've been feeling good, feeling quick, and feeling strong."

As far as how last year ended, Murphy is beyond it at this point. There are your typical aches and pains during training camp, but the foot hasn't given him any problems – mentally or physically.

For Murphy, this offseason has been dedicated to picking up where he left off last year and proving to the Packers he can be reliable in a pinch regardless of whether he's summoned on the left or right side.

"I've never had an injury like that before," Murphy said. "I don't like to play those what-if games. It was tough, but I still feel better this year than I did last year at this time – and I felt like I had a good camp last year. The foot hasn't really bothered me at all. I've moved on it from it for sure and it definitely helped grow me as a person and as a player."

The Packers were back at Ray Nitschke Field for practice Monday afternoon.

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