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    Warner Loves Coming 'Home'

    By Howard Balzer Thursday, October 30, 2008

    The Cardinals have won their last three games in St. Louis, and quarterback Kurt Warner has had a hand in two of them. Warner will be behind center Sunday in one of the major subplots to this important matchup of division rivals.


    Warner, of course, is a two-time league MVP, winning the award twice while quarterbacking the Rams in 1999 and 2001. The Rams were in the Super Bowl both seasons.


    However, when Warner suffered a concussion in the first game of the 2003 season, Marc Bulger replaced him and the team won their division with a 12-4 record. Warner then left for the Giants, and is now in his fourth season with the Cardinals.


    Apparently, some fans have never forgiven Bulger, as if it was his decision to send Warner out of town. Of course, who knows what shape Warner would be in had he been subjected to what Bulger has experienced in his tenure as the team's starter.


    The reality is that from 1999-2001, aside from the marvelous game-breakers the Rams had, the offensive line remained remarkably healthy. In those three seasons, out of a possible 240 regular-season starts, the Rams' starting line missed a total of seven starts. That's right, seven starts in three seasons.


    Last year alone, left tackle Orlando Pace, left guard Mark Setterstrom and right guard Richie Incognito missed a combined total of 40 starts.


    Meanwhile, Warner can throw to one of the most physically imposing receiver duos in league history, much less currently. Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin would make just about any quarterback look good. And Warner sure does.


    He has completed 70.2 percent of his passes for 2,089 yards, 14 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He is averaging 298.4 passing yards per game, and his current pace would give him 4,775 yards for the season and 32 touchdowns.


    Said Warner, ďI feel like Iím playing as well as I ever have. I think Iím seeing the field, I feel physically like Iím just as good as I was in those days that I can still make all the throws. I donít know if Iím playing better, but I feel like Iím playing as well as I did in some of those years. I think a lot of it has to do with that Iíve finally been in the system a couple years, the system plays to my strengths again, which I donít think Iíve had for number of years and theyíre giving opportunities to just play football how I play football. Its great position to be in and I think thatís how I thrive. Thatís what Mike (Martz) was able to do with us when we were going there is he put me in position to play how I play and theyíve done that here the last couple years and I think weíve seen the rewards from that.


    "It's exciting and it never hurts to have great wide receivers around you, great players around you. Thereís no question thatís why I had success in St. Louis because I had great players around me. And itís the same here. I have two great receivers. I have one up-and-coming young receiver whoís played great for us. We just have a great complement of players that allows me to play that game and allows us to do some different things that a lot of teams canít do and itís fun to be in control of that.Ē


    Asked about coming back to play in St. Louis, Warner said, ďIt is always special. The farther you get separated from it, I think the less you think about it. Last night I had a chance to have dinner with Coach (Dick) Vermeil, talked to Marshall (Faulk) a couple weeks ago, saw Isaac (Bruce) a few weeks ago. Anytime you have a reminder like that, it just reminds you of the great times that you had. It has been a number of times this year when we have just been out there playing and the offense has been clicking and the first thing that comes to my mind is, this is what it felt like back in St. Louis.


    "That is the first thing that comes up in my mind. So many special memories and it is so great to come back. I love the people and I love the organization and I appreciate what they did for me. Love the building and I love to play in that building so it is going to be fun and I look forward to it every time.Ē


    Vermeil was in Arizona Tuesday, but he will be in St. Louis this weekend, feted at events Friday and Saturday night, then seeing his name unveiled in the stadium's Ring of Honor Sunday.


    Warner will be in the locker room during halftime, but you half expect him to try and find a way to sneak out to catch a glimpse of the ceremony.


    ďSpecial, special individual," Warner said of Vermeil. "One of the greatest years of my life was that year with Coach Vermeil and winning the Super Bowl. I just canít say enough about him. Itís definitely an honor thatís well deserved and itís neat that Iím going to get an opportunity to be playing the game where heís inducted to the Ring of Honor. It was fun, I got a chance to have dinner with him last night and we talked about it and heís still as humble as ever about it. Itís definitely something that heís proud of.Ē


    Asked what makes Vermeil unique, he said, ďWhat makes him so different is just his love for the players; itís unique that it goes beyond the football field. It goes so much deeper than that. The things that his players care about, he cares about. The things that are important to his players he makes important to him. He makes it a point to know and to stay in touch with players that heís had around him for years and years.


    "Iíve just never been around a coach that goes to that much effort and has that much care for the guys that play for him and it just endears every player that Iíve ever known thatís played for him, it endears them to him and they just canít say good things about him and it just makes him unique and special and when youíve played for him, youíre just glad youíve had the opportunity to be with him for however long it was.Ē


    Still, Warner's focus will be on the game, and trying to give his team a three-game lead over the Rams in the division. After winning at San Francisco in the season opener, Arizona has lost three straight on the road, and allowed 107 points in those games, including 56 by the Jets.


    Rams coach Jim Haslett believes Warner is playing at least as well as he ever has.


    ďI see a guy thatís actually probably better (than he was)," Haslett said. "I think heís doing a great job of running the offense. No. 1, heís got 70 percent completion, I think thereís only three or four guys in the history of football that have been close to 70 percent. Heís not taking sacks, heís getting the ball out of his hands fast, heís on the money. Obviously he very accurate when heís throwing it and I think heís playing great football.Ē


    Bulger knows the key for the Rams this week will be how the offense performs, tying to outscore the Cardinals.


    Said Bulger, "We know that they are going to score a bunch of points this week and coach Haslett has talked about it. We have to score touchdowns. We canít just keep kicking field goals because they are going to score their share and it is up to us to keep us in the game this week.Ē


    While so much has been said about how difficult the first seven games on the Rams' schedule have been, the Arizona offense is probably the biggest challenge the Rams' defense has faced, at least in the passing game.


    ďI think itís a great challenge, especially in the passing game," Haslett concluded. "You have a quarterback thatís on fire, you have really good receivers, they have four really good receivers. Good tight ends, theyíre very good on the line and then the quarterback running everything. This is going to be a great challenge for our defense.Ē


    SIMPLY NOTING
    *Running back Steven Jackson had significant snaps with the first unit Wednesday, even though he was listed as limited participation on the injury report.


    Said Bulger, ďWe are optimistic. He looked pretty good out there today. You just hope there are no setbacks. He is our best player and to get him back would be huge.Ē



    *Cornerback Tye Hill, who had problems with confidence early in the season and then injured his knee, is back after missing three games. While he will be the fifth corner if he's active, his presence might be necessary because of the amount of times the Cardinals pass. Arizona has averaged over 40 passing plays per game.


    Asked about Hill's play early in the season, Haslett said, ďHe wasnít playing as good as he could play. Heís played a lot better earlier in his career, but Tyeís got great speed, great leaping ability and heís a good player. In his first two years he played really well, so I expect him to come back and compete at that level again, try to fight for his job again.Ē


    Of his top three corners Ron Bartell, Fakhir Brown and Jason Craft, Haslett said, ďWell, I think Ron is playing at a high level on the outside and Iím glad for him and having Fakhir back and Jasonís a good inside guy, good nickel, so yeah, I think theyíre playing pretty well.Ē


    *Defensive end Leonard Little practiced on a very limited basis Wednesday as he tries to return from a hamstring injury suffered Sunday against New England. ... Defensive tackle Adam Carriker did some work in individual drills Wednesday, but did not participate in the team segments of practice. ... Free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe has a slight thigh injury, but it did not prevent him from having full participation in Wednesday's practice.


    *This is the 59th meeting between the teams and Rams lead, 30-26-2. Since the teams have been in the same division, the Rams lead, 7-5, but Arizona has won the last three. In those three games, Arizona has won by a combined score of 116-70. The Cardinals have also won three consecutive games in St. Louis and have scored at least 34 points in each game.


    *Wide receiver Keenan Burton celebrated his 24th birthday Wednesday, and a cheesy balloon "clown" was delivered to the locker room with a "Have a Nice Day" smile on the face. Burton said it was from his stepmother, who apparently doesn't understand what a football locker room is like.


    *Kicker Josh Brown was named the NFC special teams player of the month for October.


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    Re: Warner Loves Coming 'Home'

    Warner Loves Coming 'Home'? Iowa
    LA RAMMER

    It's Jim not Chris
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HNgqQVHI_8

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