Leinart Still the Starter...For Now
QB Matt Leinart (Stephen Dunn/Getty)
QB Matt Leinart (Stephen Dunn/Getty)

Posted Jun 6, 2008


Matt Leinart, having limbered up in the hot tub during his injury hiatus, is back on the field at Cardinals organized team workouts, evidently still atop the team's depth chart at quarterback.

But just as evident is that Matt Leinart better not feel as comfortable there as he appeared to be in the widely distributed photos of Leinart with young babes during the winter.

Kurt Warner might be getting along in years but he showed that he can still play in relief of Leinart last season.

And while none among the coaching staff has flat-out said it, they seem to far prefer Warner's approach to what they've seen from Leinart thus far.

The Cardinals have tried their best to reconstruct their image as a young, edgy team with exciting talent -- the kind fans will pay to see even when there isn't an approaching Super Bowl and its ticket lottery to lure season-ticket holders.

The team invested heavily in Leinart, the 10th pick in the draft two years ago. The kid has shown that he has talent commensurate with the lofty draft position. He's also had shoulder problems from the very beginning but, then, better protection up front will help compensate for that.

It is Leinart's job to lose, but he has sent signals that he is perfectly capable of losing it.

He has shown a bent for the Hollywood lifestyle to which he was accustomed during his college days at Southern California that has some in the desert uneasy. Leinart now needs to step forward and prove that he is for real, because Warner has served notice that he is highly motivated to show he still is for real.

While Leinart seems to be carefully cultivating his playboy image, he also was a regular at offseason strength and conditioning sessions, an encouraging sign to coaches.

Warner, who threw 27 touchdown passes and 3,417 yards in 2007 after Leinart suffered a collarbone injury, got a heavy dose of the reps with the first unit at a recent organized team workout. Leinart spent most of the session with the backups.

"It's the same thing it was when I said it back at the end of the season," Coach Ken Whisenhunt said of the quarterback situation. "Matt's our starter. Kurt's going to be there pushing. It's going to be a tough job for Matt to keep because Kurt played at a high level for us last year. Kurt's been doing a lot of work in the offseason and he's looked sharp in these drills.

"It's competition. And it's not just at quarterback. It's every position on our team and that's the way you like to have it."

The sort of talk reassures and emboldens Warner.

"That's basically what has been shared with me, that the best player's going to play and that's how I look at it, and I believe everybody else is looking at it the same way," Warner said. "I can only go on what I know and what I've been told. And with that, I'm going on the fact that I'm competing and I'm going to make every rep count and try to prove to these guys that I'm the best guy for the job."

NOTES, QUOTES

--WR Steve Breaston, a strong candidate to move into the No. 3 position with Bryant Johnson having moved along via free agency, has gained about five pounds, to 190, adding muscle to his upper body. Breaston's blazing speed is comparable to that of Johnson, making him a potentially strong complement to starters Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.

"This is the hardest I've worked in my life, and I'm really seeing it," Breaston said.

Breaston spent most of his rookie season in 2007 as a return specialist.

"More than anybody from this team, I think Steve benefited from the offseason workouts here," Fitzgerald said. "It's really showing every day. He's trying to expand his role from just being a special teams guy to helping us on the offensive side."

--The Cardinals' wheels are spinning regarding how they'll take advantage of a new rule that allows a designated defensive player to wear a radio in his helmet to communicate with the sideline.

"It depends on our packages," Coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "If we're playing a team that runs a lot of four wides, then maybe we don't have the linebacker in some of the packages. Then potentially it would be a defensive back, like Adrian (Wilson, Pro Bowl strong safety).

"That's going to be a little bit of experimentation, in seeing how it works, but I think ultimately it will be a good thing."

--The Cardinals have back-to-back East Coast games in September -- at Washington on Sept. 21 and at the New York Jets on Sept. 28 -- and rather than making two cross-country flights they are considering staying in the East for the week if they can locate a suitable practice facility, possibly at a small college in the D.C. area.

--RB Edgerrin James and LB Karlos Dansby, who haven't been in organized workouts, have told the team that they are on their way, likely this week.

--WR Anquan Boldin and DT Darnell Dockett, both of whom want new contracts, have skipped voluntary workouts and have given no indication that they'll attend any voluntary practices.

--Assistant head coach/offensive line Russ Grimm is placing special emphasis on the running game during voluntary workouts -- picking up defensive stunts, pulling and zone blocking in power-package situations.

--The Cardinals continue organized team workouts next Monday through Thursday (June 9-12).

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I can't worry about whether I'm going with the 2s or the 1s. If you let that bother you, then you're only going to be hurting yourself." -- Cardinals QB Matt Leinart, listed first on the depth chart, after spending most of a recent voluntary practice with the second team, behind veteran Kurt Warner.



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