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Martz does not rule out Warner's staying put

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz said Wednesday
that Kurt Warner's agent overreacted to a conversation he had with
the quarterback, and emphasized there's still a chance the two-time
MVP could stay with the team.

Martz characterized his conversation with Warner on Monday as a
necessary "first step" in the process after he decided to go with
Marc Bulger as his quarterback for next season. He said he had
promised Warner and his agent, Mark Bartelstein, that he would
inform him when he had made a decision.

"It was a very difficult conversation, the hardest one I've
ever had with a player," Martz said. "He asked what his future
was. I think from that point on it just kind of took on a life of
its own."

Bartelstein said Tuesday his client expected to be released
after June 1 and added he expected a lot of interest around the NFL
in Warner.

On Wednesday, Bartelstein stood behind those words.

"I don't think I overreacted at all," Bartelstein said. "I
represent the highest-rated quarterback in the history of the NFL,
and he wants to play football, and the world doesn't wait for you.

"My job is to try to find him a new home."

Martz blamed himself for not making it clear to Warner, the NFL
MVP in 1999 and 2001, that he still could be back. He also said he
expects Warner to continue participating in offseason workouts and
minicamps.

"I'm afraid in my discussions with Kurt that I got carried away
and led him to believe this was it," Martz said.

It's still likely that Warner will be released. But Martz
reiterated that discussions on a long-term contract with Bulger
could impact what happens. Any Bulger talks also could impact
whether the Rams select a quarterback in the first round of the
draft on Saturday.

Bulger has been a big success in 1½ seasons as a starter with
the Rams. He won his first six starts in 2002 and led the team to a
12-4 record and an NFC West championship last year, then was the
MVP in the Pro Bowl.

Warner was the NFL MVP in 1999 and 2001, leading the team to the
Super Bowl each year. But he had just three touchdown passes and 11
interceptions in an injury-plagued 2002 and lost his job after
fumbling six times while sustaining a concussion in the opener last
year.

Martz declined to discuss his reasoning for going with Bulger.

"There's a lot of things involved with that, a lot of factors,
and I think that's something that's better left unsaid," Martz
said. "Obviously, it took a great deal of time to come to that
conclusion."

The team wasn't happy with Warner's Super Bowl Sunday speech in
Houston in which he said the Rams told him to concentrate more on
the playbook than the Bible. Warner's wife, Brenda, caused a stir
in 2002 when she asserted that she had asked the Rams to X-ray her
husband's injured hand when Martz had taken credit for it in a news
conference, and last September Brenda Warner told a radio station
that a trade would be welcomed if her husband remained on the
bench.

But Martz said his relationship with Warner has not been
affected.

"Kurt is one of the classiest people you'd ever meet," Martz
said. "People want to make this into a difficult situation where
there's something between Kurt and I, and Kurt would be the first
one to tell you that's not the case.

"People have a real misunderstanding about our relationship and
it's really unfortunate. It's never changed, it's never wavered."

Martz said he wasn't mad at Bartelstein either.

"People are people," Martz said. "He just got overzealous
trying to represent Kurt. That's his job."