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Kurt Warner – A Fond Farewell To A Great Man

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  • Kurt Warner – A Fond Farewell To A Great Man

    Kurt Warner – A Fond Farewell To A Great Man
    By Barry Waller
    June 3rd, 2004

    There are times when covering an NFL team that even the biggest fan
    might find to be more work than enjoyment. Dealing with professional athletes
    is a real pain at times, and trying to give fans the true story when so many rumors have sent them into so many directions is even worse. While there are times that the words fly out of a writer’s mind onto the pages he is composing, there are others when sitting down and rehashing the facts to tell a tale is almost excruciating. If I am doing a column twenty years from now, I probably won’t have had to labor over a story as much as this one.

    Oh, sure, nobody died, no beloved sports figure met his maker far too young on the day after Memorial Day, which is the toughest stuff to cover from a personal side; but in a lot of ways, it seems like something truly died for Ramsnation when the team released Kurt Warner. When the long predicted move was made official this past Wednesday however, there was no outcry from Rams fans, no wail of sorrow at a tragic event. Not surprisingly, Warner himself left town with the same class and good feelings that are his trademark.

    Like a parent, spouse, or child who has seen a loved one slowly slip away due to illness, those of us who will never forget what #13 meant to a team and a city have little emotion left to give as the irreversible end finally came. They have gone through the same predictable emotions of anger, denial, bargaining, and depression, then a numb acceptance of our fate, as cancer victims, ever since Kurt Warner began showing he was human after all. Ironically, the most incredible and improbable feel good story in NFL history involved a man who embodies everything decent about the human animal, despite his immortal like play when at his best.

    As the negative stories and feelings about Warner as the Rams quarterback appeared, they acted upon his legacy like tumors on bodily organs, some spreading and mutating to other areas. We may never know how the negative vibes played a part in what so quickly turned a two time MVP passer into a backup. If Warner shines with the Giants, another team needing the kind of miracle that Warner gave Rams fans and the world in 1999, maybe it will provide a bit of a clue.

    I was at Warner’s last start, in the Meadowlands against those same Giants, and as painful as it was having to suffer with him on that day, and suffer the slings and arrows of Giants fans during and following the game, I feel blessed that I got to see as much as I could of Kurt Warner in person. It was that personal contact over the past six seasons that makes his inexplicable fall from grace so distressing.

    In the NFL, everyone knows the salary cap, and other factors makes it nearly impossible to keep players for entire careers, something Rams fans have had to watch happen after 1999’s miracle season. It wasn’t easy to see Ricky Proehl, who made the catch to put the Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV, or Mike Jones, who made the tackle to seal their championship, leave the team when their deals were up. It was tough to see a personal favorite like DeMarco Farr have his career end prematurely due to injury. But even though the Rams appear to have a fine replacement in place in Marc Bulger to replace Warner permanently under center, this time even being cognizant of the realities of the NFL brings little solace.

    That feeling comes from what I have seen of Kurt Warner off the field, as much as what amazing feats he performed on it. It comes from seeing Warner take questions at his locker from every writer who wanted an answer, after every game he played, even after a game where a cheap shot to his throat left him hoarse and later under orders to remain totally silent for a week or two. Ironically, his voice was provided by his wife Brenda over that time, something she was unfairly ripped for doing in 2002.

    Nor will I forget Warner taking the total blame for losses, when it was obvious that most of his teammates didn’t give half of his effort in those games, or how he played through pain most of the time, including the Super Bowl win, when he could not raise his right arm above his shoulder during halftime. Again, that character strength was turned against Warner, when he was no longer perfect on the field.

    For six years, I kept waiting for Kurt Warner to get impatient with a fan, surly with a dimwit reporter, or condescending to a lower echelon team employee. Not once did I see it happen, even after the negative campaign against he and his wife began, one that all too often became personal and downright nasty. I have been around a long time, and I can’t recall any person I have encountered being so consistently honest, loving, understanding, and caring, let alone one with the demands made on him that Kurt Warner did.

    Kurt Warner would have been one of my all time favorite athletes even without the magical story that inspired even people who were not NFL fans to write books based his life story in 2000. At the time, knowing that the best stories seldom end on the type high note that Warner had that February, I thought it would have been best to wait awhile to really capture the amazing life that it appeared he was living.

    In many ways, the way Warner was raised to a household name, one that earned him his own cereal brand after one starting season, gave fans the feeling that it couldn’t last from the start. It was an emotion born the night Trent Green writhed in pain on the turf of the dome, after a late hit by the Charger’s Rodney Harrison blew his knee apart. Though the Rams had been the laughingstock of the league for nearly a decade, even after moving to newer and richer climes in St. Louis, there is little doubt that rock bottom when it came to negative vibes for Rams fans was August 28th, 1999.

    After that “meaningless” preseason contest, the mood in the locker room was as low as it can get; though some players put up a brave front for the media. So did head coach Dick Vermeil, when promising tearfully that his squad would “Rally behind Kurt Warner and play good football,” the day it was announced that Green was through for the year. Even Vermeil admits he had no idea that Warner would be the key to that good football, or that the complete unknown would play as good or better than any quarterback ever has.

    Is it any wonder that fans would identify with such an athlete and give so much of their gratitude for the first NFL championship for St. Louis to Kurt Warner, who took them from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs in just five months?
    After what happened to Green, is it a wonder that every time #13 got hit hard, the entire Rams following held their breath until he got back up? Even head coach Mike Martz appeared to have that squeamish feeling, as he hardly used Warner in preseason, especially in 2002, when it may have led to his slow start.

    It’s human nature to fear the worst when things are going almost too good to be true, and that’s the way it was for Rams fans for three years during the reign of the “Greatest Show on Turf”. Sometimes that fear became anger, when it became clear that teams knew the only way to keep from getting creamed was to assault Warner, Marshall Faulk, and the Rams smallish receiving corps; in often highly illegal fashion.

    Though Kurt Warner gave the NFL the best publicity they had in years, he never seemed to get the protection from the referee that many top passers receive. Even when the league made it very clear that even borderline late or illegal hits should be called, it seemed that the flags stayed in the zebra’s pockets when it came to Warner. The memory of Hugh Douglas brutally slamming Warner to the cement- like turf of Veterans Stadium in the 2001 opener, or of man-mountain Ted Washington lifting Warner off his feet and pile driving him to the ground in another game, both without a flag, still sickens the stomach.

    For every time Warner was hit with a legitimate sack, he was drilled ten times once his pass was away, often by blitzing defenders with a clear run at #13. Even after interceptions, thugs like Warren Sapp sought Warner out to try to take him out of the game with savage blocks. When Sapp did it to Chad Clifton, a Packers offensive lineman, in 2002, the league passed a rule against such behavior. However, when Sapp blindsided Warner on a pick return that meant very little in terms of the final score a year earlier, the league did nothing.

    Had Warner gotten a bit better protection from cheap shots, maybe his health would not have deteriorated so rapidly. Maybe he would have even won a second Super Bowl MVP, since the key interception for a score by the Patriots came on a play when Warner was clearly forearmed across the face and neck by blitzing linebacker Mike Vrable. Maybe if Faulk had been healthier over the past three years, or if Mike Martz would have run the ball more or protected him better with his scheme, Warner would have been able to avoid some damaging hits as well.

    Those are questions that will never be answered now that Kurt Warner is no longer a Ram, a prospect that would have been unimaginable just a year ago.
    It should be no surprise that his meteoric rise and astonishing success ended far too soon however. That always seems to be the way in real life, as well as in fiction; we human beings are accustomed to it, and even expect it. When a fictional superstar named Joe Hardy emerged from nowhere and beat those “Damn Yankees” to win the American League for the lowly Washington Senators, it was assumed it would be a one-time deal. The same for Robert Redford’s character, Roy Hobbs, in “The Natural”.

    For some reason, we seem to think that sort of limitation makes up for how great it feels in the moment the magic occurs, as if no one deserves more than a flash of greatness at an eye opening level; a bolt of lightning splitting a dark night sky, but providing that dazzling light for only an instant. Maybe that makes it possible to somehow accept this latest chapter of Warner’s saga, but it sure does nothing for the ache of seeing the best person in town, and the savior of a franchise, leave for another place, and other fans.

    __________________________________________________________
    Keeping the Rams Nation Talking

  • #2
    Re: Kurt Warner – A Fond Farewell To A Great Man

    I agree with a lot of what Barry says in this, but I have to take issue with a few of his more pointed remarks:

    Like a parent, spouse, or child who has seen a loved one slowly slip away due to illness, those of us who will never forget what #13 meant to a team and a city have little emotion left to give as the irreversible end finally came.
    The best way to diffuse a good point is to overstate it. That is what Barry has done here. Don't compare a football player leaving town to losing a loved one. Sheesh!

    As the negative stories and feelings about Warner as the Rams quarterback appeared, they acted upon his legacy like tumors on bodily organs, some spreading and mutating to other areas. We may never know how the negative vibes played a part in what so quickly turned a two time MVP passer into a backup.
    I'm pretty sure that Howard Balzer, me, Tx and even Bernie had little if anything to do with Kurt's downfall from star to backup.

    Nor will I forget Warner taking the total blame for losses, when it was obvious that most of his teammates didn’t give half of his effort in those games
    Other than Kevin Carter, who could Barry be talking about. Maybe its better not to take shots at unnamed players.

    Is it any wonder that fans would identify with such an athlete and give so much of their gratitude for the first NFL championship for St. Louis to Kurt Warner, who took them from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs in just five months?
    It is unfair to players like Faulk, Bruce, Holt, Pace, Timmerman, Wistrom, Fletcher and others to make statements like this. Kurt was a huge part of the Rams' championship season, but he didn't do it alone.

    Though Kurt Warner gave the NFL the best publicity they had in years, he never seemed to get the protection from the referee that many top passers receive. Even when the league made it very clear that even borderline late or illegal hits should be called, it seemed that the flags stayed in the zebra’s pockets when it came to Warner. The memory of Hugh Douglas brutally slamming Warner to the cement- like turf of Veterans Stadium in the 2001 opener, or of man-mountain Ted Washington lifting Warner off his feet and pile driving him to the ground in another game, both without a flag, still sickens the stomach.
    Kurt's not alone here. Ask Rich Gannon (who still can't wash the scent of Tony Siragusa from his favorite jersey).

    Had Warner gotten a bit better protection from cheap shots, maybe his health would not have deteriorated so rapidly. Maybe he would have even won a second Super Bowl MVP, since the key interception for a score by the Patriots came on a play when Warner was clearly forearmed across the face and neck by blitzing linebacker Mike Vrable. Maybe if Faulk had been healthier over the past three years, or if Mike Martz would have run the ball more or protected him better with his scheme, Warner would have been able to avoid some damaging hits as well.
    There isn't a bigger Ram fan than me out there, but even I think this sounds like whining.

    For some reason, we seem to think that sort of limitation makes up for how great it feels in the moment the magic occurs, as if no one deserves more than a flash of greatness at an eye opening level; a bolt of lightning splitting a dark night sky, but providing that dazzling light for only an instant. Maybe that makes it possible to somehow accept this latest chapter of Warner’s saga, but it sure does nothing for the ache of seeing the best person in town, and the savior of a franchise, leave for another place, and other fans.
    Oh please. Do you really feel that bad for a multi-millionare who now has the opportunity to continue playing in the biggest market in the world? And save the "savior of a franchise" nonsense. Again, Kurt didn't do it alone.

    You know, I guess I didn't really like much about this article after all.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Kurt Warner – A Fond Farewell To A Great Man

      Come on AR. :bored: You've got your opinion, which you are entitled to, and I value that opinion. But just let Barry write his article. Now that Warner has moved on, you had to expect articles like this. You got what you wanted. Warner is gone, Bulger is the undisputed starter. Just let it die peacefully. A page has turned, a new day has begun, enter poetic cliche referring to a noted change of your choice. On behalf of 99.9% of all Warnerites (except Blacktrout), we're ready to move on! 10 is our starter. Go Rams! :ramlogo:
      The more things change, the more they stay the same.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Kurt Warner – A Fond Farewell To A Great Man

        I really wasn't trying to prevent Barry from writing his article. I just thought it read as though it were written by a 12 year old girl who was just dumped by her first boyfriend.


        Oops, I did it again
        (See how I kept with the 12 year old girl theme there? :redface: )

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Kurt Warner – A Fond Farewell To A Great Man

          You know, I guess I didn't really like much about this article after all.
          Now there's a shocking developement!
          Clannie Nominee for ClanRam's Thickest Poster

          Comment

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          • RamWraith
            Warner article--sure to drum up a debate. Interesting read
            by RamWraith
            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
            ...
            -05-14-2005, 07:25 AM
          • r8rh8rmike
            Bernie: Kurt Warner Writes His Own Ending
            by r8rh8rmike
            Kurt Warner writes his own ending

            Sports Columnist Bernie Miklasz
            ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
            01/30/2010


            Ten years ago today, the Rams won the Super Bowl. The winning touchdown pass was a 73-yard dream from Kurt Warner to Isaac Bruce that floated above the reach of the Tennessee Titans and straight into history. It was magic. One flick of Warner's right wrist, and all of those sad, sorry, losing Sundays disappeared.

            Friday afternoon, Kurt Warner said goodbye as a player. At a news conference in Arizona, No. 13 announced his retirement after 12 NFL seasons and one of the most unusual and improbable careers in the history of American sports.

            Watching it, I wanted to be sad. I wanted to turn back the clock. I wanted to make the last few seasons of Rams football go away, just as Warner and his teammates made all of those bad memories go away in 1999.

            I can't believe it's been 10 years since the 1999 season, and the rollout of "The Greatest Show on Turf," Warner to Bruce, Mike Jones and "The Tackle," and the triumph of Super Bowl XXXIV.


            But as I watched Warner explain his decision to move into another phase of his life, the melancholy lifted. Let's realize how fortunate he is. Warner leaves with his health intact to savor a fulfilling life with Brenda and their seven children. Warner exits the stage as a winner, having led futile franchises in St. Louis and Arizona to three Super Bowl trips.

            Warner departs on his terms. He isn't broken down. His skills haven't deteriorated. He didn't stay too long. Warner wasn't an aging Willie Mays losing a fly ball in the sun in 1973. He wasn't a diminished Muhammad Ali, getting battered by Larry Holmes. He wasn't Michael Jordan, fading into irrelevance in the odd colors of the Washington Wizards. He wasn't John Unitas, limping around as a San Diego Charger.

            How many star athletes know when to leave on time? Not many. A list of those who managed to pull it off includes Barry Sanders, Jim Brown, Sandy Koufax, Larry Bird, Ted Williams, Ozzie Smith. Well, place Warner's name among them.

            And that's why I'm happy for Warner. He won. In a few years, he went from tossing cans of greenbeans to co-workers on the overnight shift at the Hy-Vee store to throwing the TD pass that won a Super Bowl. How many athletes realize their wildest dreams? How many athletes can retire knowing that they enhanced their sport? Or that they inspired millions of fans through their display of perseverance and personal character?

            "I wanted people to remember that anything is possible," Warner said at his news conference. "With my story, and the fact that it took me so long to get here, I know there are a lot of people that gravitate to that part of it. That understand the struggles. That ... understand when it takes a little bit longer...
            -01-30-2010, 02:15 PM
          • Barry Waller
            Feelings on Warner
            by Barry Waller
            It comes across the screen like so many useless bits of information that crawl along the bottom of ESPN's endless sports channel....Kurt Warner agrees to 2-year deal with Cardinals. It's certainly no surprise, but thinking about my reaction to it, a moment of clarity once again reminds me of what Warner's saga means to so many, even those like me, the most hardened of sports fans.

            Yes that was me at the Blues-Redwings fiasco last night, hoping that Marian Hossa's night was through early after a hard hit on Detroit's leading scorer. Like most ultimate fans, I think what hurts my enemy helps my guys. If sports is a microcosm of war, invented to touch that part of humans that loves competitive conflict, then this part of fandom is certain proof.

            Even in a relatively civil group of sports fans in St Louis, fans still become obsessed to winning, and why not, in a sports environment that so offers little more on the surface. All that ESPN and most of the media wants is stories. Talented, but immature and stupid players get most of the ink in the end, and a lot of stuff about some real great people who happen to be football players never is known.

            But we know about Kurt Warner, we know his whole life story, and some of us have had the absolute privilege to observe him up close and personal over several years, and get to know the man behind the magic.

            Those who never got to know him can't believe why fans love him here so much, some that don't even care about football, but more amazingly guys like me, fanatics, not just fans. I can tell them this, it isn't some fake sports idolatry. WE “Warner lovers” genuinely hope he and his family do well, when normally, for we rabid fans, that would be like hoping Rommel wouldn't lose favor in WWII..

            That's why we knew along this deal would get done without much animosity, because Kurt Warner wouldn't sell his family's comfort now for a few million bucks. His agent no doubt talked him into making that trip to Ninerville, but maybe he just went to get info that would give him an edge against a division rival. He probably went as a favor to that friend and long time agent, Mark Bartelstein, who has been with Kurt from the start, since the grocery store almost.

            The thing that makes this amazing is that as a Rams fan, I know this really makes the Cardinals a force in the division, which I did not foresee if Warner departed or retired, but I am still happy for him. I don't have to hope or not that he will fail, because it just isn't gonna happen. I hoped Ike Bruce would fail as a Niner, and I liked him too.

            That's what is so magical about the whole incredible Warner story. It's one off, whether we like it or not, and whether ESPN knows it or not. I sensed it would be back in 2000, after Kurt had a number of books out about his story. After a group interview session in the locker room one day, I casually mentioned to...
            -03-04-2009, 12:57 PM
          • Nick
            Warner's the man, at least to Warner
            by Nick
            Warner's the man, at least to Warner

            First published: Thursday, August 19, 2004

            ALBANY -- He's still the quarterback who takes teams to Olympus. Still the quarterback whose passing statistics are a fantasy of flight. Still the quarterback whose grocery-bags-to-NFL-MVP story felt as good as a kiss.
            Kurt Warner is convinced of this.

            He's gone from superstar to waiver wire. Untouchable to unwanted. At the end in St. Louis, the Rams were as eager to show Warner the door as he was to pass through it. He was signed by the Giants to be a mentor and stopgap, until Eli Manning is ready. Everything in Warner's career has changed -- but him, he insists.

            In nearly every player's career there comes a time when his skills, as Bill Belichick once said of Bernie Kosar's, diminish. Age and injuries make mortals of all. The player knows when he enters the winter of his career, but he won't publicly admit it.

            Warner, now 33, says he's the same quarterback, and because he's friendly, and gracious with his time, you want to believe him.

            But you don't.

            Once, Warner led the Greatest Show on Turf. Now, he's trying to hold Manning at bay long enough to audition for a starting job with another team next season. That's not the same at all.

            There has never been an NFL player like Kurt Warner. From stock boy to wonder boy to oh boy, what happened. It would be as if Greg Maddux had gone from video store clerk to Cy Young control artist to a pitcher who stopped throwing strikes, though Warner doesn't see it that way. The Rams' 0-8 record in his last eight games as a starter didn't change Warner's opinion of himself.

            "You have to say, 'Did Kurt Warner lose those eight games because Kurt Warner didn't play well, or did the Rams lose those last eight games because the team didn't play well?' " Warner said. "I think that's where people sometimes get skewed in their opinion."

            Warner doesn't mention that the Rams were 18-4 the past two seasons when Marc Bulger started at quarterback. Granted, win-loss percentage isn't everything. But it's something. And playing on the same team, with the same players, Bulger enjoyed success while Warner flopped. But if Warner's fumbling 14 times and throwing 11 interceptions with only four touchdowns in those eight games have cracked his confidence, he conceals it behind his disarming smile.

            "I feel like I can play as well as anybody in this league," Warner said. "I can still play this game. I don't plan on being average."

            Thing is, average would be an improvement.

            One trait players like in their quarterback: accountability. They respect a guy who accepts criticism when warranted and shares praise when deserved. But in a recent conversation, this is as close as Warner came to acknowledging he performed...
            -08-22-2004, 12:40 PM
          • r8rh8rmike
            Kurt Warner Ends His Storybook Career
            by r8rh8rmike
            Kurt Warner ends his storybook career

            By Jim Thomas
            ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
            01/30/2010


            He walked into the room in typical Kurt Warner style, with humility in his heart and a Bible in his hand. And then directly and with clarity announced what everyone expected: that he was retiring after 12 storybook seasons in the NFL.

            In no way did he seem conflicted about his decision. The only time he got emotional was after he brought wife Brenda and their seven children onstage at Friday's news conference in Tempe, Ariz.

            The MVP awards, the Super Bowls, the amazing statistics will always be associated with Warner. But that's not really what Warner wants as his legacy.

            "The one thing that I always want to leave people with ... is that anything is possible," Warner said. "I think that's one of the reasons that God's placed me up here and allowed me to do what I do. To encourage people out there that although sometimes it doesn't look really bright, and there's moments you want to give up ... that anything's possible.

            "I hope that when people think back on my career ... that that's what they remember more than anything else. Not the way I threw the football. Not particular games that I won. That they remember that here's a guy that believed, that worked hard, and although things didn't always go in his favor, he continued to press through. And with his faith in himself and with his faith in God, he was able to accomplish great things. That's what I want everybody to remember."

            How could we ever forget?

            From grocery store clerk in Iowa to triggerman for the Greatest Show on Turf. It was a made-for-TV movie if ever there was one. But then came the wrenching loss to New England in Warner's second Super Bowl. Injuries. The Brenda-gate controversies with Mike Martz.

            After his unceremonious release by the Rams following the 2003 season, Warner seemed lost in the wilderness career-wise with the New York Giants, and initially, with the Arizona Cardinals.

            "After leaving the Giants, it looked like that was probably it," current Rams general manager Billy Devaney said. "There were questions about him, about his thumb. And then he puts on the glove (on his throwing hand for the 2007 season)."

            And suddenly, it was vintage Warner once again, and for the second time in his career he took a woebegone franchise to the Super Bowl. Call it the rise and fall — and rise again — of Warner.

            "It's absolutely one of the most amazing stories in sports," said Charley Armey, Rams GM during most of Warner's six-year stay in St. Louis. "It probably never happens again in our lifetime."

            "It's an unbelievable story," said Dick Vermeil, head coach of the Rams' Super Bowl championship team. "No quarterback...
            -01-30-2010, 02:10 PM
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