Back from 6-game suspension, Cardinals' DeAndre Hopkins wants heavy workload Thursday

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins takes questions from media Tuesday afternoon at team headquarters.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins takes questions from media Tuesday afternoon at team headquarters.
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DeAndre Hopkins wants nothing to do with being on a limited snap count.

The veteran wide receiver is back from his six-game league-mandated suspension, practiced on Tuesday and has made it known he wants to play. A lot. Right away, starting with Thursday night when the Hopkins is eligible to officially return for the Arizona Cardinals against the New Orleans Saints at State Farm Stadium.

"I've always been a guy who's in the game in the fourth quarter, I've never been a receiver to come out or attempt to come out. And I don't see that happening anytime soon," Hopkins said Tuesday, asked if can take the field and play a regular game.

"We’ll see how he’s going, but I know he’s anxious," Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said Monday. "He was up here today asking for the game plan and excited to get out there."

Hopkins took part in training camp, then kept himself in shape while having to be away from the Cardinals facility due to his suspension for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy. As the regular season has gone on and the team went 2-4 without Hopkins, he was asked what it was like to see the Cardinals struggle on offense.

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"Frustrating. It's really only one word to put it, just frustrating," Hopkins said. "I can't sit here and give a synopsis of, you know, everything that went wrong. I'm a player, I'm not a coach. Obviously you guys watch the game. There's a lot of things we can improve on. And I think we know that as well."

Hopkins is a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All Pro. The Cardinals were 8-2 in games he played last season, though Hopkins missed the last four regular season games and the team's playoff loss due to injury.

That's 11 consecutive games, including this season, without Hopkins. The Cardinals have won only three of those.

At only 30 years old, he's already in his 10th NFL season. Hopkins noted that he didn't have a single 100-yard receiving game last season, but was still satisfied with how he played.

Arizona Cardinals DeAndre Hopkins (10) catches a pass behind his back during training camp at State Farm Stadium in Glendale on July 27, 2022.
Arizona Cardinals DeAndre Hopkins (10) catches a pass behind his back during training camp at State Farm Stadium in Glendale on July 27, 2022.

"A lot of people look at it as a down year for someone like myself, but I look at that as a productive year because I got a lot of guys open and you know, it's more that goes into a football game then fantasy stats or yards," Hopkins said. "I'm able to help create other mismatches on the field. And so I think my presence out there dictates that. I think last year was a great example of that."

The return of Hopkins comes at a time when the Cardinals have lost leading receiver Hollywood Brown to a foot injury for least several weeks, delaying the debut of a duo Cardinals fans have long awaited. The offense hasn't been able to find the rhythm and production it had last season at this time, and the Cardinals are facing about as close to a must-win game as is possible in order to keep pace in the NFC West.

Quarterback Kyler Murray expressed his happiness at having Hopkins back.

"There's a reason why he's, you know, he's the best," Murray said, "and I'm excited for him. Excited to be able to throw him the ball again. You know what I'm saying, never take that for granted. But man, I'm just happy for him. The team is definitely appreciative of having him back."

Hopkins has a positive outlook and a veteran presence his teammates respect. He's also been known to do good deeds in the community just for the sake of giving back, like when he and friends delivered bottles of water to people on the streets in the middle of the summer just before training camp.

Getting Hopkins back in the locker room was perhaps nearly as important as his return to the football field. If anything, he said, being out of game action for so long might have helped extend his career.

Hopkins said he feels opponents are more nervous about him than he is nervous about playing again.

"He's one of the best to ever play. So I mean, that speaks for itself," Murray said. "Everybody loves him, you know, respects him, understands what he brings to the team. So I mean, the guys know."

Being back with his teammates gave Hopkins chills and almost brought him to tears, he said.

"I love this game. I love being around the players. You know, they've been fighting. They've been fighting, trying to win some games," Hopkins said. "So just being around and seeing how happy they were to embrace me, it felt good."

Get in touch with Jose Romero at Jose.Romero@gannett.com. Find him on Twitter at @RomeroJoseM. 

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Cardinals' DeAndre Hopkins want to play a lot vs. New Orleans Saints