GREEN BAY – Patience comes naturally for Kyle Murphy. It’s been that way since he first arrived on Stanford’s campus five years ago.
A highly-touted recruit out of San Clemente (Calif.) High School, the future Packers offensive lineman served two years as the Cardinal’s blocking tight end in jumbo packages before becoming a full-fledged starting tackle in 2014.
From there, Murphy developed into an all-conference starter at both tackle spots for Stanford on his way to becoming the Packers’ sixth-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Reflecting on that first NFL season, Murphy sees many parallels between his introductions to Stanford and Green Bay. Only active in three games, the 6-foot-6, 305-pound offensive lineman spent his rookie year watching and learning from the likes of Bryan Bulaga, David Bakhtiari and T.J. Lang.
“Obviously as a competitor, you want to be out there regardless of who you’re lining up against,” Murphy said. “At the same time, I had great guys to learn from, guys who have been there and done that. You see the way they study and approach games, and their routines throughout the week. I think that definitely helped me.”
After the season ended, Murphy sat down with Head Coach Mike McCarthy and offensive line coach James Campen during his exit interview, and mapped a plan for his second season.
One of the areas the coaching staff wanted Murphy to focus on this offseason was broadening his skillset beyond the tackle position, a practice the Packers have often preached with their young linemen during McCarthy’s time as head coach.
Flexibility is essential. Last year, the Packers relied on two former left tackles – Jason Spriggs and Don Barclay – to help fill the void inside when Lang missed three games. Barclay also served as the backup center for the entire campaign.
Although Murphy has spent most of his career working as a bookend on every offensive line he’s played, he also understands the value of versatility for reserve linemen. It was a topic that came up in nearly every pre-draft interview he had.
“In the NFL, you have to be able to play everything,” Murphy said. “Everything is similar enough. As long as you stick to your rules and your techniques, it pretty much takes care of itself.”
It didn’t take long for Murphy to jump into his offseason routine. Admittedly, his body didn’t need much time to recover after playing only a handful of in-game snaps as a rookie.
Murphy spent two months working out with longtime trainer, John Bradley, at LAB Sports Training in San Clemente with the goal of further developing Murphy’s strength.
Once back in Green Bay, Murphy was able to enjoy his first full NFL offseason program. He missed everything but minicamp last year due to rules prohibiting players who haven’t graduated from participating in the offseason program until their respective school has dismissed for the summer.
In place of actual practice reps, Campen and Murphy had to make do with video-conferencing software like Skype to stay up to date on installations. Once Campen learned how to navigate the technology with an assist from offensive assistant David Raih, he and Murphy were off and running.
“It was fun to do that with him,” Campen said. “You could tell he’s a thinker, a worker even through the Skype. I’d draw it up on the board, show him something and we were able to watch tape together. So it was very valuable time even though he was not here.”
While there’s only so much you can glean about a player during non-padded offseason practices, Campen has noticed the difference in Murphy’s physicality, balance and bend.
That final bit is crucial for taller offensive linemen. In a league where shorter defensive tackles like Mike Daniels are in vogue, guards must match their pad level to maintain leverage.
Murphy estimates he split his workload about 65-35 between tackle and guard this offseason. That experience, paired with his eagerness in the weight room, is what gives the coaches confidence Murphy will be able to compete at multiple positions once training camp kicks off at the end of the month.
“It’s a challenge moving from any position where you’re comfortable and putting yourself in (a new spot),” Campen said. “You really have to absorb the opportunity and go for it. You have to throw yourself at the position and trust. It comes down to your head and heart, (and) good things happen for you.”
After receiving limited reps during the regular season, Murphy made sure to capitalize on the first-team reps he was afforded after veterans were excused from minicamp.
Murphy feels considerably more confident with a full year under his belt. Soon, it’ll be up to him to translate it all to the field with the competition expected to be fierce in camp for jobs behind the starting line.
“You’re almost trying to survive out there,” said Murphy of his rookie season. “When you do it again, you have that comfort level and that confidence to go out there and thrive instead of just survive. I’m going to work my butt off these next few weeks and come to camp ready to compete because we have some really talented guys in the o-line room pushing each other every day. I’m ready to go.”