Kurt Warner (Getty)
Quarterback Kurt Warner doesn't see his performance last year as vindication for the years when teams gave up on him and many thought he was washed up. Last season's ride to the Super Bowl was, well, just plain fun. Warner said the ups and downs of his career didn't necessarily make him appreciate it more.
"Last year was a special team, a special run and it was just a special moment," Kurt Warner said. "Not so much because I wasn't supposed to be there or that my career was over. It was neat how it all came together at a particular time.
"I think I just appreciate it from that standpoint."
Much has transpired since the Cardinals lost to the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII. Warner re-signed for two more years, then underwent hip surgery to repair torn labrum and remove loose particles.
The departure of offensive coordinator Todd Haley was just one of many changes on the offensive staff. Coach Ken Whisenhunt returns to calling plays, which he did his first season, and receivers coach Mike Miller moves to passing game coordinator. Russ Grimm will coordinate the run game.
There are new coaches at running back, receiver and quarterback. So while nine offensive starters return (10 if you count part-time starter Tim Hightower at running back), training camp will be a period of adjustment for Warner and the offense.
"The hard thing is not to get complacent and say, 'Look what we did last year,'" Warner said. "That stuff starts to get lax an all of a sudden you're losing game and you're not where you were before. I've got to commit to working just as hard and letting guys see me not backing down and being relaxed in doing what I believe in. That's been the process we've been going through and we just have to build on that."
This camp will require a period of adjustment for Warner and the coaches, however. Haley was a large presence on the practice field, working with receivers, quarterbacks and challenging the offense as a whole. Coach Ken Whisenhunt's hope is that the team has enough veterans who will police themselves and not need a voice to push or prod.
Grimm might do a little more of that, but there is no one on the staff as brash or confrontational as Haley was.
"Who is the coach who steps out there and takes on the role of being the bad guy?" Warner asked. "We have a lot of young coaches. We're going to have to have someone who steps up and puts the hammer down a little bit. It's going to be interesting for me to see who that is and how that dynamic works. It's hard for a player to do throughout the season."
The biggest key for the Cardinals this season is keeping Warner healthy. Eight of the last 10 Super Bowl losers didn't make the playoffs the following year. Most of them had serious injury problems the following year, including at quarterback.
Warner has started 31 straight games for the Cardinals and played as well as he has in his career. He's dispelled the notion that some people had about his durability.
"Everybody can say what they want to say," Warner said. "I'm going to go out and play the way I want to play. They can call me a wimp if they want. In this business, lots of people are injured and lots of guys fight through it."
CAMP CALENDAR: Camp breaks on Aug. 20. On Saturday, Aug. 8, the Cardinals will host a "Red and White" practice that includes an autograph session a live goal-line session. The team will also have two night practices, on Aug. 5 and Aug. 18.