TEMPE, Ariz. -- The starting call has come earlier than
expected for Matt Leinart, who went through his first practice as
an NFL first-string quarterback on Wednesday.
Leinart capped the session with a little extra work on the field
with Edgerrin James, then pronounced himself confident for his
first start for Arizona on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs,
although he acknowledged, "They're probably licking their chops
with a rookie quarterback coming in."
With costly mistakes plaguing Kurt Warner and the sputtering
offense, coach Dennis Green decided to switch to Leinart, who was
supposed to spend the entire season learning as a backup.
"This was not our intention. It's not what we wanted," Green
said, "but we're 1-3 and just so many turnovers have brought it
"This was not our intention. It's not what we wanted, but we're 1-3 and just so many turnovers have brought it on."
-- Arizona coach Dennis Green on starting Matt Leinart
Leinart has impressed coaches and teammates since he came to the
Cardinals after a surprising drop to the No. 10 pick in the draft.
"I think you've got to understand who Matt Leinart is," Green
said. "As far as college football is concerned, I don't know if
there's a quarterback in the history of the game who has had as
much success on that level."
USC was 37-2 with Leinart at quarterback, earning two national
championships and winning a Heisman Trophy for him in 2004. But
that was not the NFL, and it wasn't the downtrodden Cardinals, who
are off to a 1-3 start for the fourth year in a row and have one
winning season since 1984.
"What I want to try to do is not cram everything in and try to
do too much," he said. "I'm comfortable with what I'm doing.
Really, football is obviously studying your opponent and knowing
what you're going to do, but really just playing, just going out
there thinking and playing football."
He will operate behind a suspect offensive line that drew a
public berating by Green this week. On his weekly radio show, the
coach said it was time for the line to "stop whining" and work
As any new quarterback would be expected to do, Leinart defended
"I think they're going to be fine," Leinart said. "I think we
just need leadership out there and hopefully I can come in there
and just kind of bring a spark. Those guys have talent. We've
struggled as an offense, and that's on everybody. That's not just
on those guys. I know that they're going to be fine. I have faith
in them, and I think they have faith in me.
"And I think we're going to see that this Sunday."
Warner, who has lost starting jobs before to Marc Bulger in St. Louis and Eli Manning with the New York Giants, pledged his support
and promised to help Leinart, but said the transition to the pro
game is bound to take a while.
"To have a full grasp is going to take a long period of time,
and I'm sure Matt's not even close to that yet," Warner said.
"How quickly he'll be there? I don't think it will be at least
until sometime next year where he feels completely comfortable with
everything, relaxed and just can play football."
Leinart, though, said his goal is to do just that right away,
and to enjoy it while he's at it.
"I'm not sure what it's like in the huddle when Kurt was in
there, but I know the type of guy I am," he said, "going in there
talking, keeping the guys motivated, just playing, just having fun.
That's what it's all about."
"I think Matt's way ahead of where most guys are when they come
in," center Alex Stepanovich said. "I wouldn't say he's arrogant,
but he's got a good confidence about him. He knows what he can do
and what he can't do, so I think he'll be fine."