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Warner wins second MVP award in three years

Updated:

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Kurt Warner had a debut season for the ages in 1999. This year, he topped it.

But the St. Louis Rams quarterback just couldn't talk about it.

Warner edged teammate Marshall Faulk to win The Associated Press MVP award for the second time in three years Wednesday. He has been ordered not to talk for a week after taking a hit to the throat in the regular-season finale, so he responded to questions via e-mail, and then deferred to his wife, Brenda, in a news conference.

``This season has been more rewarding than 1999,'' said Warner, who led the Rams to the NFL's best record at 14-2, and threw for 4,830 yards, the second-highest total in history.

``I think it is because we were the favorites coming in and the toughness of our schedule,'' he said. ``To be able to accomplish what we have this season, on both sides of the ball, has been truly rewarding.''

Coach Mike Martz said there's no doubt that Warner is a better player than his first MVP season. In 1999, he had 41 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions and threw for a then-team record 4,353 yards with a 65.1 completion percentage with a rating of 109.2 _ fifth-highest in NFL history.

``You've got to look at the defenses that we played this year,'' Martz said. ``What he's been able to accomplish this year, some of the throws and plays he's made have been pretty remarkable. He's had a great year, just a great year.''

Warner said he's more comfortable in the offense, and the numbers support that. He completed 68.7 percent of his passes, by far the best in the NFL, and threw 36 touchdown passes, tied for sixth-best ever. Although Warner threw an NFC-high 22 interceptions, he also led the league in yards per completion (8.85), completions (375) and overall rating (101.4).

``We are truly in a special place and special time that may never be equaled again,'' Warner said. ``I am truly blessed to have been placed in the middle of such a tremendous situation.''

Martz hoped that Warner and Faulk, last season's MVP, could somehow tie in the balloting and split the award. It nearly happened as Warner got 21 1/2 votes and Faulk 17 1/2 in balloting by a nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters.

Green Bay's Brett Favre was third with five votes, Pittsburgh's Kordell Stewart had four and Chicago's Brian Urlacher, the only defensive player to receive votes, two.

``I think the MVPs we have won the past three years have been awards that reflect the accomplishments of our whole team,'' Warner said. ``We see these awards as team awards, for we know that we benefit from all the great talent surrounding us.

``I really think that this year's award should have been split between Marshall and myself.''

Despite missing two games with a knee injury, Faulk became the first player in the NFL with four consecutive 2,000-yard seasons. Faulk had 2,147 total yards from scrimmage, second to Priest Holmes of the Chiefs, rushing for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns and leading NFL running backs with 83 receptions for 765 yards and nine touchdowns.

Together, Warner and Faulk are the foundation of one of the most potent offenses in NFL history.

The 30-year-old Warner already has equaled Joe Montana, Steve Young and John Unitas with his two MVP awards. Only Brett Favre, with three, has more.

``It is always a tremendous honor to be mentioned with the likes of those great players,'' Warner said. ``But it is still very early in my career and my hope is that I can be mentioned in the same sentence as these guys (and Faulk) when my career is finished.''

The Rams are the second team to win three straight MVP awards. Favre took it in 1995 and `96, and shared it with Detroit's Barry Sanders in '97. The only other Rams player to be voted MVP was Roman Gabriel in 1969.
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