Passing on the 49ers

Matt Leinart could have been a 49er. But when San Francisco had the No. 1 overall selection in the 2005 NFL draft, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner declined to enter the college lottery after his junior season at USC, and now he'll be playing against the 49ers instead as Arizona's starting rookie quarterback. Here, Leinart talks Cardinals and 49ers and gives his takes on several subjects.

On Arizona's offensive line playing well as of late, and how it makes his job that much easier: "They are playing great and that obviously makes my job that much easier. They have improved every week and I'm proud of how they have been able to handle everything. They are a great group of guys who are only going to get better."

On what he has seen from the 49ers: "They are good, they have gotten better, and they are a possible playoff team. It's going to be a great game, and we are going to try and spoil their run. We are going to come out and play hard. They are a good football team."

On if the Cardinals are playing the best they have all season right now: "Yeah, we stumbled a little bit last week but over the four- or five-game stretch we have played great. We showed a lot of signs of what's in store and what we can do. We just want to finish strong and get to the offseason and look forward to next year."

On how his supporting cast of wide receivers has eased his transition: "It's just how they are. First of all, we get along great on and off the field. They are very good, so they would make any quarterback look good so I can't complain I got two of the best in the game."

On wide receiver Bryant Johnson: "He has stepped up and made a lot of big plays. He has a couple of touchdowns and he is a solid receiver who could start on a lot of teams in this league. Obviously, we have Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald and he gets overshadowed most of the time, but he's a great player. He has made a lot of big plays this year."

On the 49ers secondary: "Walt Harris is having a great year. They move around a lot, and they do a lot of different things. I think they are good. They are experienced and they mix up a lot of their coverages and try to confuse the quarterback and the offensive line so we have to really trust in our preparation this week."

On if he looked at the 49ers as possibly drafting him if he had come out as a junior: "No, obviously you are aware of what's going on, but I never really said I'm coming out because of this team or I'm not coming out because of this other team. I didn't really care who was there."

On if he ever imagined himself as a 49er: "Not really. Everyone else said that, but not me. Everyone said that I could have been playing for the Niners, but maybe not. You never knew what could have happened."

On if he was a 49ers fan growing up: "Yeah, I'm a Joe Montana, Steve Young, and Jerry Rice fan. You couldn't help but watch the Niners because they were a powerhouse in the 90s."


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