QB Warner to announce decision on future
Mark Bartelstein, in a telephone interview on Wednesday, said the announcement will be made at the Cardinals training facility in Tempe. Bartelstein declined to reveal Warner’s decision.
The 38-year-old quarterback, who has led two franchises to the Super Bowl and one to the NFL title, has strongly considered retirement in the wake of a season that saw him miss a game with a concussion. He led the Cardinals to an 11-7 season, including a wild playoff victory over Green Bay, one year after directing Arizona on a stunning run to the Super Bowl.
The Cardinals were eliminated 11 days ago in the divisional round by New Orleans.
Warner has one year, worth about $11.5 million, on the two-year contract he signed before last season. But the day after Arizona was eliminated in 45-14 loss to the Saints, he said money would not be a significant factor in his decision.
“I don’t want to come back just to get the paycheck or just because I’ve signed that contract if I can’t do everything that I would want to do or if I’m not willing to do everything that I’ve done in the past,” Warner said at the time. “That’s the bottom line.”
He said that although he loves the games themselves, it’s the long hours of physical and mental preparation that wear on him.
“The farther I’ve gotten into this, the more and more I demand of myself, that’s physically, staying in shape because I’m older, that’s mentally in preparing and putting in work and time to try to help put this thing together the way that I want it put together,” Warner said. “All that stuff gets more and more a burden every year.”
If Warner decides to step away, it will be the end of a remarkable story of rags to riches to rags then riches again. After toiling in the Arena Football League and NFL Europe, with a stint stocking grocery shelves, Warner was 28 when injuries to others made him the starting quarterback for the St. Louis Rams.
What followed was a magical season that ended with the Rams NFL champions and Warner the league and Super Bowl MVP. He got the “Greatest Show on Turf” back to the Super Bowl two years later, where the Rams lost to New England.
But after an injury-plagued 2002 season, he was sacked six times and suffered a concussion in a 2003 season-opening loss to the New York Giants. He never started for St. Louis again.
He signed a free agent contract with the Giants for 2004, but was replaced by rookie Eli Manning(notes) after nine games. Warner came to the Cardinals in 2005 and was an off-and-on starter before replacing the injured Matt Leinart(notes) part way through the 2007 season.
Warner had to beat out Leinart the following spring, then led the Cardinals to the NFC West crown and playoff victories over Atlanta, Carolina and Philadelphia before the narrow loss to Pittsburgh in last year’s Super Bowl.
Warner has 32,344 career passing yards in the regular season in 12 NFL seasons. His playoff statistics are even more impressive.
He has compiled a 9-4 record, and his performance in the 51-45 overtime wild card victory over Green Bay was nearly perfect. Warner had more touchdown passes — five—than incompletions—four, going 29 for 33 for 379 yards in the highest-scoring game in NFL history.
He and his wife Brenda have seven children. The couple operate the First Things First Christian charitable foundation. Last year, he was named the NFL’s Man of the Year for his off-the-field and onfield accomplishments.
Warner’s departure would leave Leinart the presumed replacement. The former Heisman Trophy winner has started 17 games for Arizona but only one in the last two years. He has been erratic in his few chances as Warner’s backup.
“I do realize there’s a good chance that he’s going to retire and my opportunity might finally come, so we’ll see,” Leinart said as he cleaned out his locker 10 days ago. “But I’m just going to prepare like I did this offseason, probably work even harder, and we’ll see what happens.”