Sacking The Quarterback: Warner is gone from the Rams as of today
By Bill Coats
Of the Post-Dispatch
Officially, quarterback Kurt Warner's record-setting days with the Rams will end today. Unofficially, the tie was cut Tuesday.
According to agent Mark Bartelstein, the Rams informed the league Tuesday afternoon of Warner's release. Bartelstein said Rams executive Jay Zygmunt told him that the team had completed "the process of releasing Kurt."
Zygmunt, president of football operations, declined to confirm whether the paperwork had been filed with the NFL. But Zygmunt acknowledged that as of today, Warner no longer will be a member of the Rams.
Today marks the first day that teams can release players with multiyear contracts and have the salary-cap hit spread over two years instead of one. Warner's release will cost the Rams $4.6 million this year and $6.7 million in 2005.
Under league guidelines, the close of business Tuesday in New York, home of the NFL offices, was at 3 p.m. (St. Louis time). So the Rams could have notified the league of Warner's release after that time, as Bartelstein indicated, and the transaction technically would be dated today.
Whatever the timing of the move, Warner is heading elsewhere after six seasons in St. Louis. Bartelstein said Warner, who was unavailable for comment, greeted the move with "a lot of mixed emotions. He's had so much success and such a great relationship with everyone in St. Louis, that's just an unbelievable chapter in his life and an unbelievable chapter in the history of the NFL. So, to leave that I think is hard.
"But he's in the prime of his career . . . so he's eager to go play football."
Warner can sign with another team as early as this afternoon.
"Kurt wants to get something done quickly," Bartelstein said.
Although Bartelstein said several teams are interested in Warner, the New York Giants are expected to get his name on a contract - probably for one year, at about $3 million - before the end of the week.
"Kurt and I kind of have a preference of what we think is the best fit, and we're going to see if we can get that worked out," Bartelstein said. "If we can, great. If not, there are other choices."
Warner, who will turn 33 on June 22, could emerge as the starter for the Giants, who released incumbent Kerry Collins after trading for Eli Manning, the No. 1 overall selection in the April draft. Warner's broader role would be as a mentor for Manning.
"He's not going somewhere just to be a mentor; he's going to go somewhere to play and to try to win," Bartelstein said. "If Kurt Warner plays next year the way he's capable of playing and he helps the team win, and win big, it doesn't really matter who's waiting in the wings. Kurt's going to be the guy."
Warner visited with new Giants coach Tom Coughlin last month and also passed a physical examination administered by the team. League rules barred him from working out for another team while he still was under contract with the Rams, so he didn't throw for the Giants.
But Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi apparently is satisfied that Warner can regain his effectiveness.
"We have the best doctors in the league, and our staff feels that Kurt Warner is in excellent shape with no concerns," Accorsi told reporters in New York. "He obviously has the credentials and has a pretty startling record."
Startling is an appropriate term to describe the way Warner stormed onto the NFL scene in 1999. The little-known University of Northern Iowa product was thrust into the starter's job when Trent Green suffered a serious knee injury in an exhibition game.
Six months later, Warner was the talk of the league and the toast of St. Louis. He passed for 4,353 yards and 41 touchdowns, guiding the Rams to a 13-3 regular-season record and a stirring postseason run that culminated with a 23-16 triumph over Tennessee in the Super Bowl. Warner was named Most Valuable Player of the league and the Super Bowl.
A broken pinkie finger on his right (throwing) hand kept Warner on the sideline for five games in 2000, when the Rams went 10-6 before losing at New Orleans in the first round of the playoffs. Healthy again in 2001, Warner threw for 4,830 yards - the second-highest total in league history. The Rams were NFC West champions after going 14-2 in the regular season and again reached the Super Bowl, where they lost to New England 20-17. Warner again was voted the league's MVP.
Injuries to his hand and thumb, plus several concussions, severely limited Warner's playing time the last two years. Since the end of the '01 season, Warner started seven games, and the Rams lost them all. During that same span, Marc Bulger was 18-5 as the starting quarterback, including a 12-4 mark last season.
In April, coach Mike Martz told Bulger that he was the team's No. 1 quarterback. In May, Bulger signed a four-year, $19.1 million contract with the team, and Warner's release became a virtual certainty.
Today, it becomes official.