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Bernie: Kurt Warner Writes His Own Ending

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  • Bernie: Kurt Warner Writes His Own Ending

    Kurt Warner writes his own ending

    Sports Columnist Bernie Miklasz

    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 to try to achieve your goal. There are moments that you want to give up and you question whether you should continue to follow your dream.

    "I think I'm a living example of when you make yourself useful, when you continue to work hard, when you continue to believe in yourself, and when God wants to use you in a special way, that anything is possible. I hope that when people think back on my career, that's what they remember more than anything else."

    Warner did something else important during his career: He restored some of our lost faith in athletes. They're not all frauds or phonies or too good to be true. Warner is a genuinely good man who treated everyone with class and respect, including those like me who largely wrote him off as a beaten-down, damaged quarterback in 2003.

    I figured it out later. I didn't really underestimate the quarterback; I underestimated the man and the amazing resolve that he summoned to overcome the injuries and a staggering mid-career slump.

    Off the field, Warner recognized that he could make a positive difference by serving his community, and he acted upon that generous instinct in many ways.

    We've been exposed to many scandals and scoundrels as of late, and it's depressing. But even as he left, Kurt Warner stood above the muck. He was the real thing, from the beginning to the end. It was an honor to watch him, and to know him.

  • #2
    Re: Bernie: Kurt Warner Writes His Own Ending

    Warner did something else important during his career: He restored some of our lost faith in athletes. They're not all frauds or phonies or too good to be true. Warner is a genuinely good man who treated everyone with class and respect.....

    .....Off the field, Warner recognized that he could make a positive difference by serving his community, and he acted upon that generous instinct in many ways.

    We've been exposed to many scandals and scoundrels as of late, and it's depressing. But even as he left, Kurt Warner stood above the muck. He was the real thing, from the beginning to the end. It was an honor to watch him....
    Pretty much says it all.

    I'll always remember him as a :helmet: just as those Phoenix will rmember him as a Redbird.

    GO RAMS!!


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    • r8rh8rmike
      Bernie: Kurt Warner Has Every Reason To Retire Now
      by r8rh8rmike
      Kurt Warner has every reason to retire now

      Sports Columnist Bernie Miklasz

      When Kurt Warner got mashed into the ground on a vicious but clean hit by New Orleans defensive end Bobby McCray, I automatically assumed the worst.

      That's it.

      We've just seen the end of Kurt's career.

      And what a horrible, depressing way for him to go.

      What were we supposed to think? Warner was rolling around on the turf, eyes blinking. He seemed disoriented. He was in pain. He's 38 years old. He's endured multiple injuries in his career, including five concussions. The Saints were already up by two touchdowns in the second quarter of this NFC playoff game, and would go on to win by 31.

      When Warner threw that interception, looked to make a tackle, and ended up blind-sided by McCray, it appeared to be the final blow.

      Fortunately, the immediate repercussions weren't as severe as feared. Warner was shaken up, but returned in the second half. That's good, but it still doesn't ease the big-picture fears and the concerns over Warner's long-term health and future.

      I hope Warner will walk away from the game. What else does he have to prove? I believe he's already done enough to warrant selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

      Just look at a partial list of all that he's accomplished since entering the NFL with the Rams in 1998: Two-time league MVP with the Rams; Super Bowl MVP and championship with the Rams; three-highest passing-yardage days in Super Bowl history; 52 300-yard games; the only NFL quarterback to throw 100 touchdown passes for two teams; nine postseason victories; the second-best passer rating (102.8) in NFL postseason history; and guiding two down-and-out franchises to the Super Bowl.

      There's nothing left for Warner to gain, but he has much to lose. Kurt and wife Brenda have seven children at home. As Warner told me in an interview earlier this year, he wants to be healthy and vibrant and immersed in their lives.

      Warner wants to enjoy being a grandfather some day — and without limitations brought on by football-related debilitation. Warner has given 11 years of his life to the NFL but says he wants to be sure that the best years of his life to go to his family.

      And it won't be easy for Warner to continue rebounding from injuries. After all, it took him a few years to recover from the hand injuries, concussions and harsh beatings he took in St. Louis before finally regenerating his career in Arizona. And Warner was younger then. He'll be 39 if he chooses to play the 2010 season.

      Last fall, the results of a preliminary study commissioned by the NFL indicated that former NFL players have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease or similar memory-related diseases at a dramatically higher rate than the national...
      -01-18-2010, 11:55 AM
    • RamDez
      Kurt Warner – A Fond Farewell To A Great Man
      by RamDez
      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...
      -06-06-2004, 03:38 AM
    • 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, 11:40 AM
    • r8rh8rmike
      Kurt Warner Ends His Storybook Career
      by r8rh8rmike
      Kurt Warner ends his storybook career

      By Jim Thomas

      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, 01:10 PM
    • 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."


      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, 06:25 AM