QB Battle Comes Down to Any Given Sunday

Matt Leinart might not be entrenched as the team's starting quarterback, but it's going to be difficult for him to lose the job before the start of the season. No one knows that better than the guy trying to beat him out, Kurt Warner. Looks like the battle will matter more what happens on Sundays rather than the preseason.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt named Matt Leinart the starter shortly after the end of the 2007 season, but he has gone out of his way to say the position is open to competition, like any other spot. If Kurt Warner performs better, he'll play.

But Warner knows it's hard to lose a starting quarterback job in the preseason.

"It's hard because all we're doing is practicing and playing preseason games in limited time," Warner said. "As far as the opportunities that are going to present themselves in training camp ... I don't know if that's going to be able to be a factor."

Warner is accepting Whisenhunt's word that he has a legitimate shot to beat out Leinart, but Warner also has expressed skepticism because he's suffered the consequences before when a team has decided to play a younger quarterback.

While with the Giants in 2004, Warner was benched for rookie Eli Manning after nine games. Giants coach Tom Coughlin admitted to Warner then that he was the better of the two quarterbacks, but that the Giants needed to play Manning for the franchise's long-term future.

The situation with the Cardinals is different, Warner said. Whisenhunt has said several times that the best quarterback will play.

It's not an easy call for Whisenhunt to make. Leinart played just five games last season because of a fractured collarbone. He didn't play well in most of them, and Whisenhunt publicly chided him for not putting in enough work outside of practice.

Leinart, however, appeared to be improving in the weeks before the injury. And the team needs to find out exactly what it has in him, the 10th overall pick in the 2006 draft.

"One thing that seems to be forgotten is that Matt was growing and doing a pretty good job for us too, when he got hurt," Whisenhunt said. "So I think you've got to be pretty careful in not overlooking that."

Warner played last year even when Leinart was healthy. Beginning with the third game, the Cardinals brought Warner in to run a no-huddle scheme that was very effective.

Warner, who turned 37 in June, assumed the starting job after Leinart went down and finished the seasons with 27 touchdown passes. It was an impressive performance from a player many people had written off.

There were some problems, however. He fumbled too often, and some of his mistakes helped bury the team early in games. Warner still has a gunslinger mentality left over from his days as the Rams' quarterback, and it's a style that doesn't mesh with Whisenhunt's offensive system.

So it's hard to see Warner beating out Matt Leinart in the preseason, not unless the younger quarterback plays horribly or is involved in another off-field incident. If Warner's going to win the starting job, it's probably going to happen early in the regular season, if at all.

"It's a whole different deal when you start playing on Sundays," Warner said. "That's unfortunately what we're not going to get to see before the decision has to be made. That's the hard part."

CAMP CALENDAR: Camp ends Aug. 21; Aug. 13 - Night practices; All training camp practices will be held at Northern Arizona University and are open and free to the public.


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