DeAndre Hopkins returns to Cardinals practice for first time since late October

Dana Scott
Arizona Republic

There were two short-term firsts for the Cardinals and DeAndre Hopkins on Wednesday.

The team had its first practice on Wednesday after their bye week through Thanksgiving, and Hopkins had limited participation in his first practice since Oct. 22.

The All-Pro wide receiver has missed practice and the Cardinals' past three games because of his hamstring injury he suffered in their 31-5 home win over his former team Houston Texans on Oct. 24.

The last game Hopkins played in was their home loss four days later against the Green Bay Packers. 

Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury said his coaching staff still treading lightly on Hopkins' possible return at the Bears this Sunday. He's more concerned about Hopkins' time away from practice than Chicago's forecast for cold and rainy weather conditions hampering his leg.

"We just gotta be smart with how we use him if he's able to go. Maximize him as best we can, but make sure we don't wear him out," Kingsbury said. "He was out there against Green Bay on one leg making catches, so I think he's a special talent. If he can go, he'll give us what he's got."

Oct 24, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Houston Texans in the first half at State Farm Stadium.

In addition, Kyler Murray was limited at practice on Wednesday. 

Murray said he's "hopeful" to return against Chicago. He's missed as many consecutive games as Hopkins since he injured his ankle in Cardinals' loss to Green Bay.

"We want to make sure they feel good and kind of ease them back into the week," Kingsbury said about Hopkins and Murray. "(Thursday), we'll have pads on and hopefully they can do a little bit more."

Simmons, Murray say Kingsbury won't leave Cardinals

Isaiah Simmons told reporters on Wednesday that Kingsbury being mentioned among Oklahoma's next head coach targets was "very expected."

The Cardinals inside linebacker added Kingsbury told the team he's not going anywhere, Simmons said.

"I actually went up to him on Monday, and I looked at him, 'We in this for the long haul,'" Simmons said. "We're not going nowhere, so I definitely love Kingsbury, and from what he told us, he's not going anywhere."

Although, Simmons "wants what best for him" and will "understand if he chooses to go."

Kyler Murray isn't accepting the media's hype around Kingsbury's name in the mix to return to the college ranks. 

"I know Kliff. I don't really buy into it," Murray said. "I think he's got a pretty good job right now."

Murray, who played at Oklahoma, supports the decision by former coach Lincoln Riley accepting USC's offer.

Riley became the Trojan's new head coach less than a day after the Sooners lost to in-state rival Oklahoma State on Saturday night.

"He's a huge reason why I went to OU. I've been throught he ups and down with him," Murray said about Riley. "My family loves him, I love him. I'm happy for him."

He added an adage Riley's Oklahoma predecessor and current interim coach Bob Stoops said about the Sooners to justify how they will move forward.

"Obviously, I know Sooner Nation is not too fond of the decision and stuff like that. But like Coach Stoops said, no one man makes up the program," Murray said. "We've had a ton of guys that have come through there and we've always been successful, so I think OU will definitely continue to be successful."

Watt at practice, away from team drills

J.J. Watt was seen at practice doing individual work running wind sprints but wasn't suited up.

The defensive lineman dislocated his shoulder against the Texans, didn't play against the Packers, and has been on the injured reserve since Nov. 6 after he had surgery for it.

Watt has been working out at the Cardinals training facility since then, but not able to participate in team drills.

The IR requires players to sit out at least three games, which Watt has missed. Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim told The Republic on Nov. 26 he "wouldn't bet against him" possibly returning to the Cardinals lineup before the end of the season.

"You can't count him out. He's a machine and he's been working like crazy," Kingsbury said. "I'm never up here when he's not up here and doing some sort of rehab, and he's out there on the field running. You never know with him."

Other Cardinals' return to practice

Starting defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence participated his first practice since Nov. 3 after he was designated to return from the IR, which he was placed on Nov. 6.

Starting left guard Justin Pugh was at practice but not in team workouts. Kingsbury said Pugh will be a game-time decision against the Bears. Pugh's last practice he participated in was Nov. 5 because of his lingering calf injury, and hasn't played a game since their road win over the San Francisco 49ers two days later.

Long snapper Aaron Brewer was seen practicing snaps during the open media portion, despite still being on the IR since Nov. 11. Kingsbury said Brewer and starting running back Chase Edmonds, who's also on the IR, will be eligible to play again versus the Los Angeles Rams on Dec. 13.

Cardinals donating 8,000 holiday meals 

The Cardinals announced Wednesday they have partnered with State Farm to provide ,meals to 500 families in the Tempe School District for the holiday season. Craft Culinary Concepts at State Farm Stadium will prepare each of the preselected families’ four cooked meals, bread and gallon of milk. They’ll be picked up by the preselected families at a contactless drive-thru at Compadre Academy in Tempe between 11 a.m.-1 p.m. this Saturday.

Injury report

Safety James Wiggins was the only other Cardinal limited in Wednesday's practice besides Hopkins and Murray. Offensive linemen besides Pugh who didn't practice were center Rodney Hudson and right tackle Kelvin Beachum, who were both rested.

Bears players who didn't practice were defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. (ribs), WRs Marquise Goodwin (foot/ribs) and Allen Robinson II (hamstring), DT Akiem Hicks (ankle), LBs Sam Kamara (concussion) and Roquan Smith (hamstring), tight end Cole Kmet (groin), and RB Damien Williams (calf). Quarterback Justin Fields (ribs) was limited, and safety Tashaun Gipson Sr. (chest) played in full.

Roster moves 

Cardinals running back Jonathan Ward was put on their Reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday. 

LS Kyle Nelson was released from the team on Tuesday.

Have tips for us? Reach the reporter at dana.scott@azcentral.com or at 480-486-4721. Follow his Twitter @iam_DanaScott.

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