Leinart still starter for Cardinals

Monday, September 24th 2007, 6:15 pm
By: News On 6

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) _ Matt Leinart still is the starting quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals.

Kurt Warner will be still waiting in the wings as the team's ``no-huddle'' specialist after nearly leading the team to a comeback victory at Baltimore on Sunday.

``We're going to try to find ways to keep Kurt playing based on how he played yesterday,'' coach Ken Whisenhunt said on Monday. ``But I don't feel like Matt has done anything to lose the job.''

How Leinart feels about this unusual two-quarterback approach is a mystery. As reporters crowded around Warner in the locker room Monday, Leinart walked past with a towel over his head, grabbed the playbook out of his locker, and left.

Warner, the former Super Bowl and two-time league MVP in his 11th NFL season, was happy just to get an opportunity to get back on the field.

``It is a little bit weird,'' he said, ``but at the same time to be in a backup role, for somebody to basically say `Here's an opportunity for you to play weekly,' that excites me.''

The Cardinals trailed the Ravens 20-3 at the half and 23-6 after three quarters, but Warner threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to Anquan Boldin, then Neil Rackers' 41-yard field goal tied it at 23-23 with 1:50 to play.

With the help of a questionable unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Adrian Wilson, the Ravens drove downfield and Matt Stover kicked the winning 46-yard field goal as the game ended.

Whisenhunt, offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers for three seasons before coming to Arizona, said he had used the no-huddle approach before at Baltimore because it stifles the shifty Ravens' defense and combats the extreme crowd noise.

``It was something that we predetermined was going to happen about the second quarter just for a change of pace,'' Whisenhunt said. ``During the course of game-planning for these guys, we felt Kurt was much more comfortable with it and would operate it more efficiently.''

Warner completed 15-of-20 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Leinart was 9-for-20 for 53 yards.

Whisenhunt said it is unfair to compare the two because the offense Warner ran didn't allow the Ravens to do all the shifting they did when Leinart was in the game. Plus, the team played better with Warner, and Leinart had four of his passes dropped.

``To me as far as fairly evaluating the two guys, it's kind of like apples and oranges,'' the coach said. ``I don't think you can.''

Adding the no-huddle approach, with Warner at quarterback, gives future opponents more to prepare for, the coach said.

``It's not maybe the perfect scenario,'' Whisenhunt said, ``but I think of out respect for Kurt and what he's done, and also as Matt's worked hard and done what we've asked him to do, that's the best approach for us right now.''

Warner acknowledged the possibility of Leinart losing confidence.

``I think there's definitely a danger in that, but at the same time we've got to do what's going to be most successful for this football team,'' Warner said. ``And Matt's going to be just fine. That's what he's got to understand.''

Warner said he tried to explain to the young quarterback that it was the no-huddle package that led to Sunday's success, and that it is still Leinart's team.

``I hear the reports `Well Matt got benched.' That wasn't the case. Everybody's taking it wrong,'' Warner said. ``That's the stuff you've got to stymie and let Matt know it isn't about that. `You're the guy. Continue to do what you do.'''

When Leinart makes a mistake or two in front of the home crowd, the boos and calls for Warner are inevitable.

That brings a smile to Warner's face.

A year ago, in a 16-14 loss to St. Louis, Warner was booed off the field after throwing three interceptions and fumbling away a snap that cost an attempt at a game-winning field goal.

``Now here we are and they want me back in there,'' Warner said. ``It's the business. People are fickle. `What have you done for me lately?' They always are ready on the bandwagon or off it based on what you did yesterday.''

Leinart will be the starter as long as he keeps working hard and keeps improving, Whisenhunt said.

``If Matt does not play well and continues to not play well, then that's something you have to look at,'' Whisenhunt said. ``What we've said, not just with the quarterback position but with this team, is if you're not playing well and somebody else is playing better, they're going to play.

``But that's not the case here. That's not what happened yesterday with Matt and Kurt.''