AGENT: KURT IS TEAM GUY
By PAUL SCHWARTZ
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

November 17, 2004 -- When he received the call from Kurt Warner's agent in the spring, Giant GM Ernie Accorsi said he had one immediate question.
"Why would he want to come here?" Accorsi recalls asking Mark Bartelstein.

With the blockbuster trade for Eli Manning already completed and, thus, the franchise quarterback already in the fold, the Giants at first seemed to be an odd destination for Warner, desperately looking for a starting job to resuscitate his career. The Giants promised the opportunity to compete with Manning, and that was good enough for Warner, who was confident his best would be enough to stave off the rookie.

Warner lasted nine games and always knew the specter of Manning was lurking. At 5-4 after losing three of the last four games, coach Tom Coughlin finally made the change and Manning gets his first NFL start on Sunday against the Falcons.

"He's obviously very disappointed," Bartelstein said yesterday. "It kind of rips your heart out. I think it's very gut-wrenching for him. He'll handle it with class like he does everything. He'll stay ready, and I know he'll support Eli as much as he can.

"It's extremely difficult circumstances. Here are the Giants, who everybody picked to be in last place, they lose last week to Chicago and 99 percent of the headlines in New York are 'It's time to go with Eli.' He [Warner] is only human, he hears all that stuff. You're playing under more of a microscope, but we knew that coming in, that was the way it was going to be."

Both sides entered into this agreement with no illusions. Warner signed a one-year contract for $1.5 million plus a bonus of $1.5 million, with the never-to-be seen second year already voided. He was the bridge to Manning, a one-and-done member of the team. He'll become an unrestricted free agent at season's end.

Still, he is a healthy, two-time MVP who at 33 years old doesn't believe he's washed up.

"He feels when everyone's doing well he can play at a real high level right now. I think he's shown that," Bartelstein said.