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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Warner article--sure to drum up a debate. Interesting read

    Just like with Rams and Giants, Warner out to prove critics wrong
    By Darren Urban, Tribune


    The resumé is too long for the story to begin where it once did. Kurt Warner knows that.
    His past is decorated with two MVP awards, three Pro Bowls, two Super Bowl appearances and a St. Louis fan base that still follows him two stops later.

    Warner is no longer the nobody who took over at quarterback for the Rams in 1999, but in some ways, he is starting over.

    He has more doubters than believers, which is where he stood that day St. Louis coach Dick Vermeil made him the starter after Trent Green's season-ending knee injury almost six years ago.

    And like his Rams back then, his new team in Arizona carries few expectations.

    "There are a lot of people out there that don't think I can still play, and there's a lot of people out there that don't think this team has a chance to do anything," Warner said. The statistics haven't been gaudy for three years, and for Warner, his history has become his burden. But it is also his proof.

    "There has never been a story like Kurt Warner's," Cardinals coach Dennis Green said. "It's a result of him believing in himself." Warner still believes. He believes that winning football, if not video game-like stats, remains in him.

    He believes politics dragged him out of the lineup with both the Rams and the New York Giants. He believes he will be reborn as an NFL starter with the Cardinals this season. And he believes he has lived this scenario before. "It's kind of my story, the underdog story, no chance to have success," Warner said. "It's kind of like what I stepped into in St. Louis.

    "I get a chance to rewrite my story, and I get a chance to hopefully rewrite the story of the Arizona Cardinals."

    FROM HERO TO HUMBLED

    The first version of Warner's story came straight from Hollywood.

    He was nowhere, bagging groceries at one point after college, eventually thinking a successful arena football career in his native Iowa was as far as the dream might go. Then, in one stunning two-year period, he rose from Iowa Barnstormer to St. Louis Ram as ringleader of the "Greatest Show on Turf."

    "St. Louis football was dog meat for so long," longtime St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz said. "Then this mythical character out of a W.P. Kinsella novel walks out of the Iowa cornfields."

    He won a Super Bowl that first season as a starter. He set team records. He was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. And he was a good person, friendly almost to a fault, a sports hero fans could feel good about embracing.

    Warner was going to be a Ram forever.

    That he isn't now, "flabbergasts me a little bit," Warner admitted.


    The divorce was painful. Many fans didn't want their adopted son going anywhere. But coach Mike Martz had decided Marc Bulger was his quarterback going forward, and the once unthinkable happened last summer.

    Warner was released.

    "This game is a lot about politics," he said. "It's a lot about draft picks. It's a lot about one person's opinion of a certain situation, and you have to learn to deal with that."

    Warner insists he doesn't hold a grudge against Martz or anyone in St. Louis.

    Through a team spokesman, Martz declined to be interviewed for this story.

    "People have a real misunderstanding of our relationship, and it's really unfortunate," Martz told the Post-Dispatch a year ago. "It's never changed, it's never wavered. But I have an obligation as a head coach to do what's best for this football team."

    Martz's style may have cost Warner. The system was based on precision and flooding the field with receivers. Many times, Miklasz said, Warner was pounded by the defense as he delivered his passes. That apparently took a toll.

    Mark Bartlestein, Warner's longtime agent, was frustrated by the pounding his client's reputation had taken.

    "To me, the hard thing for Kurt wasn't that he played poorly, it was that he was an MVP on that short of a leash," Bartlestein said.

    It was a broken hand, an injury that Warner unknowingly played with part of the time, that derailed his 2002 season. In 2003, Warner suffered a concussion in the opening game, and Bulger played the rest of the year.

    But there also remain questions about the thumb on his throwing hand, first injured in 2001.

    And these were the stats Warner was fighting: In his last eight games as a Rams starting quarterback, St. Louis went 0-8. He had four touchdown passes, 11 interceptions and 14 fumbles.

    "I respect him a lot, but in my opinion, he never really owned up to the fact his play declined," Miklasz said. "That's not to say it's not reversible. But Kurt has not been the same quarterback."

    GIANT STEP

    Warner's year in New York had a built-in shelf life. He didn't sign with the Giants until after the team had acquired rookie quarterback Eli Manning.

    "We had a great understanding when he came, we were basically going to try and use each other," Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi said.

    Warner was disappointed again, however. After directing the Giants to a 5-2 record, he lost his last two starts to Chicago and Arizona. The team was still above .500, but with Warner taking 13 sacks in those losses and the future of an injury-riddled team looking bleak, the Giants decided to jump-start Manning's career.

    Warner was benched and left shaking his head.

    "What happened in New York, I won't say I definitely agreed with it or it was exactly how it was laid out it was going to be, but it wasn't like, Oh my gosh, how could this happen? " Warner said. "He was a No. 1 draft pick, they paid him 50 million dollars, it was a matter of time before it happened."

    Warner's numbers were better in New York than at the end in St. Louis. His passing rating of 86.5 was his best since 2001, and he could have had more than his six touchdown passes.

    Bartlestein said 12 times last season a Giants receiver was tackled inside the 5-yard line after catching a Warner pass, only to have the drive end with a rushing touchdown or a field goal.

    Warner called that "your agent talking," but acknowledged the Giants offense under coach Tom Coughlin wasn't conducive to piling up big numbers.

    "This is a stats-driven business," Warner said. "Obviously my stats in St. Louis were off the chart. The first thing you go against was everyone compares you to St. Louis and you won't have the same stats as you did in St. Louis."

    Accorsi said he "absolutely" thinks Warner can still play at a high level, reiterating some of the injury problems that plagued the Giants last season.

    He also praised Warner as a teammate and an employee.

    "We are just a better organization because he passed through here," Accorsi said.

    And that means a lot to Warner.

    Warner is a Christian man, deep into his faith. He and his wife Brenda, who passed on an invitation to be interviewed for this story, created the First Things First Foundation to share those values.

    As hard as his professional path has been lately, Warner said he simply takes it as the plan God has laid out for him.

    "If you had ever asked me if that would have been possible, to win a Super Bowl, win an MVP but to have more influence when I wasn't playing and when things weren't going well, I'd have thought you were nuts," Warner said. "But I have seen people come to understand who I am and what I stand for and what I believe in more effectively because of the consistency I have had character-wise through those highs and lows."

    STARTING OVER

    Warner will play against the Rams for the first time Oct. 9 at Sun Devil Stadium. His signing with St. Louis one-time franchise made big news there, especially with fans still upset Warner is no longer a Ram.

    "With the hatred of Martz in this town and love of Warner," Miklasz said, "there's no doubt in my mind the day he signed with the Arizona Cardinals, a number of Rams fans defected."


    Finding his way to Arizona was not hard once the Cardinals expressed an interest in him. Only two other teams seriously considered Warner, and Chicago and Detroit both made it clear they wanted Warner as a backup.

    Warner had the same problem finding a starting job the previous offseason.

    "Kurt will tell you there's nothing wrong," Rams receiver and former teammate Torry Holt said during ESPN's draft coverage Saturday. "(But) the numbers don't lie."

    Green said it was Warner's competitiveness and record as a winner that drew his attention. Warner said it was the collection of receivers, Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald and Bryant Johnson, that made Arizona attractive, knowing that his success in St. Louis came because of wideouts like Holt and Issac Bruce, and his struggles in New York were, in part, due to a lack of receivers.

    That's the reason Warner, originally looking for a longterm deal, signed a one-year contract worth $4 million with the Cardinals.

    What Warner will get is a chance to play, competing for the starting job with incumbent Josh McCown. That's a situation Warner has found himself in his past two stops, battles he felt weren't fairly decided.

    "If the best player is not me, then the best player is not me, and I have to deal with that," Warner said. "I have always believed I can put my talent and skills up against anybody and may the best man win. The hard part is when it's not a fair competition."

    There is irony in the statement. Whatever the circumstances of Warner's previous two jobs, it's clear where he stands with the Cardinals, and this time, it is Warner who likely has the advantage.

    It will be a shock if Warner doesn't start the season opener. The NFL certainly thinks so. With the Giants and the Rams slated as the Cards' first two opponents, Warner will have a chance to show all three teams he has played for that he is right, that he is still the same quarterback.

    And maybe, just maybe, he'll relive some of the same magic he did in 1999.

    "I am moving my family, I am buying a home, and I am believing things are going to work out great," Warner said. "The great thing about it is so much of it depends on me.

    "I think it'll be the perfect situation and it will write the perfect ending to the book."


  2. #2
    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Warner article--sure to drum up a debate. Interesting read

    Brenda, who passed on an invitation to be interviewed for this story
    Wish she could have passed on a couple of those when she was here.


    Warner will play against the Rams for the first time Oct. 9 at Sun Devil Stadium.
    Looks like someone didn't do their research. Warner plays the Rams for the first time Sept. 18 at Sun Devil Stadium. October 9 is the Seattle home game for the Rams, which I hope to attend.
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  3. #3
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    Re: Warner article--sure to drum up a debate. Interesting read

    This article pretty much tells it like it is, that Warner will get a chance to show what he has or doesn't have. He's still a relatively unknown quantity at this point and I wish him well. If he does well in Arizona, good for him, if he doesn't, that's the just the way it is. No excuses. He took the Arizona situation and he'll sink or swim knowing what he has to work with.

    It will be a shock if Warner doesn't start the season opener. The NFL certainly thinks so. With the Giants and the Rams slated as the Cards' first two opponents, Warner will have a chance to show all three teams he has played for that he is right, that he is still the same quarterback.
    This certainly has intrigue written all over it. I think it will be a lot of pressure on that hand, his resolve and his ability. If he indeed wins the starting job, he won't get a better set up than this.

    Through a team spokesman, Martz declined to be interviewed for this story.
    Good move by Martz and an indication of his growth and maturity as well as his desire to concentrate on football and not distractions.

  4. #4
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    Re: Warner article--sure to drum up a debate. Interesting read

    I hope Warner doesn't come back and bite

  5. #5
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    Re: Warner article--sure to drum up a debate. Interesting read

    It's a no-win situation for Warner. There will be a large contingency (some of which are in the media) that will call Warner a failure unless he repeats his '99-'01 performance....and that WILL NOT happen. Not a slam on Warner, just a commentary on how rare the '99-'01 situation was. It was the right personnel playing the right scheme at the right time. If his rating cracks 90 and the birds win at least 8, I'd say he had as successful a season as any could hope for. But of course some will call him a failure for it, and I'm guessing some would call him a failure regardless of his performance.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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    Re: Warner article--sure to drum up a debate. Interesting read

    I wish him luck with every opponent but us. It will be nice for him to be able to go into a season, knowing the job is his to keep or lose, without having to look over his shoulder. This should be a true test to whether or not he still has what it takes to be a starting NFL QB. No matter the outcome, we should be thankful for the years he gave us.

    A question for those in the know, does Arizona "have" an offensive line?
    This space for rent...

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    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Warner article--sure to drum up a debate. Interesting read

    Quote Originally Posted by thoey
    A question for those in the know, does Arizona "have" an offensive line?
    They like to think they do.
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  8. #8
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    Re: Warner article--sure to drum up a debate. Interesting read

    Denny will find a way to give KW protection.You can be assured of that!

  9. #9
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    Re: Warner article--sure to drum up a debate. Interesting read

    Kurt Warner is cooked.

    He's going to be this years Mark Brunell...

    I would rather have Tim Couchpotato than Kurt right now. Don't get me wrong, he was good, but that was back then.
    "I'm gonna knock him down, and I'm gonna smile when I do" --- Boobie Miles

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    Re: Warner article--sure to drum up a debate. Interesting read

    Quote Originally Posted by thoey
    I wish him luck with every opponent but us. It will be nice for him to be able to go into a season, knowing the job is his to keep or lose, without having to look over his shoulder. This should be a true test to whether or not he still has what it takes to be a starting NFL QB. No matter the outcome, we should be thankful for the years he gave us.
    Well said, Thoey. I'd like him to have success as well, as long as we're the one's in the playoffs, not them.

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