Warner soap opera bubbles up Sunday
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Saturday, Sep. 17 2005

TEMPE, Ariz. He went from grocery store clerk, to Super Bowl hero,
to salary cap casualty.

There were injuries along the way: How's the pinky finger? . . . How's the
thumb?


Plus, the controversies of "Brenda-gate" (His wife takes on the head coach over
a hand injury). And "Bible-gate" (Kurt allegedly tells a church group that his
coaches want him to spend more time in the playbook, less time in the Bible.)
And now, direct from the Valley of the Sun, comes yet another twist to the Kurt
Warner story: his first game against his former team.

"For people who are Rams fans and have been fans for years, this is a special
week," tight end Roland Williams said. "And it has some soap opera pieces to
it. But at the end of the day, this is a football game, and one we need to
win."

Adding to the plot, of course, is the fact that Warner now plays quarterback
for the villainous Bill Bidwill, who pulled the Big Red from the Gateway City
to the Phoenix area in 1988.

"For Week 2, I'm sure it gives you a little something to get going on the
game," offensive guard Adam Timmerman told reporters.

That's for sure. For some, Sunday's Rams-Arizona game at Sun Devil Stadium will
be seen as the ultimate referendum on whether coach Mike Martz made the right
decision in opting for Marc Bulger over Warner in 2003.

Will there be Brenda Warner sightings in the stands?

What happens with the 10,000 or so Rams fans who normally attend these desert
get-togethers? Will they have divided loyalties?

"Hopefully, they still like me a little bit," Warner said. "And maybe they'll
cheer for us a little, too."

But as Williams noted, at the end of the day, it's still a football game.

"Somebody's going to end up 0-2 this week," defensive end Anthony Hargrove
said. "We just hope it's not us."

The Rams, 28-25 losers last week in San Francisco, would be 0-2 for only the
third time in 11 seasons in St. Louis if they lose the Warner Bowl. When that
has happened previously, in 2002 and 1998, the Rams finished with losing
records those seasons.

So, 0-2 is definitely not a place the Rams want to be early Sunday evening.

"No," linebacker Chris Claiborne said. "It's working out of a hole. We need
this victory. We really do."

But as disappointing as the *****' game was to the Rams - and Rams fans -
Williams insists it's no time to panic.

"Put away the 45s," Williams joked. "We lost a game that we should have won.
Now, we have to come back here in this second weekend and do what we need to
do. Go out and get a win."

To do so, the Rams must win on the road, where they've lost 19 of their last 27
regular-season and postseason contests. They must do so on a day when the
temperature will approach 100 degrees. And they must do so against an
up-and-coming team, which despite last week's 42-19 loss to the New York Giants
has a depth chart sprinkled with young, talented players.

"Even if we would've won (against San Francisco), there's pressure every week
to win," Bulger said. "We had to back into the playoffs a little bit last year,
and we don't want to get in that situation again. Fortunately, Arizona and
Seattle stumbled last week, just like us. If we win, we can get back to .500."

That is the only stat that matters to the Rams this week: 1-1. All of which
explains why there wasn't a whole lot of talk in the Rams' locker room during
the week about playing Warner. (Except, of course, during the media interview
periods.)

"We feel like it's a big game for a lot of reasons," defensive lineman Tyoka
Jackson said. "The least of all is ... the name Kurt Warner."

So there will be some handshakes and hugs before and after the game.

"You never can forget a guy that you went to the Super Bowl with," said
Williams, who caught Warner's first NFL touchdown pass in 1999, against
Baltimore. "It's sort of a connection you'll always have. I wasn't here when
things went awry for Kurt in St. Louis. But my memories of him are nothing but
positive ones. And I just wish him the best in Arizona."

Except, of course, on Sunday. And on Nov. 20, when the Cardinals visit the
Edward Jones Dome.

"We know what he meant to the organization," Bulger said. "He deserves all the
praise and accolades he gets. He won the Super Bowl and all that. But we're so
busy right now trying to beat them, that we have plenty of time to pat him on