“You gotta forget it all. The crowd, the audibles, the playbook. Just focus on this next one pass… Enjoy it. That’s what you’re here for.”
While not the greatest speech in Oliver Stone’s gridiron epic Any Given Sunday, Al Pacino’s words speak volumes towards Matt Leinart’s current plight with the Arizona Cardinals.
A veteran could once again replace the former Heisman Trophy recipient before the regular season has even started. This is just another detour for the former top pick’s tumultuous professional career which has included injuries, a coaching change and enough criticism of his play to make JaMarcus Russell start another eating binge.
But it wasn’t always this way for the Santa Ana native, whose passion for the game led him to forgo millions of dollars to return to USC for his senior season and another go-around with his fellow Trojan teammates. That love of the game seems to be lacking and is what Leinart needs to rediscover in order to reclaim the starting spot under center.
He has matured, grown out of the “Hollywood” persona, moved past the scandalous pictures and celebrity friends to start training and working hard to become a solid NFL quarterback. But he isn’t there yet.
Leinart has seemingly forgotten how to take a chance once in while, throwing underneath whenever a viable option downfield isn’t immediately available. Part of having fun means rolling the dice and letting his teammates make plays. Leinart’s mindset needs to revert to what it was while at USC - laughing, smiling and not getting frustrated when something doesn’t go his way.
Leinart has learned how to act like a pro and take care of himself as an adult, now comes learning how enjoy football again.
Saturday is where it begins for Leinart to return to that form against an always aggressive Bears defense. Not an easy task, but if he wants to keep his spot under center and prove the naysayers wrong, he will have to “fight for that inch.”
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