Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner addresses the New England media during his conference call on Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Q:You've accomplished a lot of good things this season and yet you're coming off the Minnesota loss, which probably wasn't you're best performance team wise. What's the mood going into this week?
KW:There is obviously a little disappointment, like you said we've accomplished a lot of good things but we're still in the process of building this thing and becoming what we want to become. Although we've accomplished things that we haven't accomplished here in a long time we're not there yet and we understand that. You look at our schedule and the teams that have beat us this year and we've played a tough schedule and we've played a lot of good football teams. Unfortunately, we haven't beat a lot of the best teams we've played this year but I think that's just a sign to us that we've got a ways to go. We have to continue to improve and we have to get better. We're fortunate to have played as well as we have and have won the games that we have, to win our division and be in the playoffs and have all those experiences that we've had but we're not there yet. We can't ever be satisfied with just winning the division and winning more games than we've won here in the past or accomplishing things that we haven't accomplished in the past. Our mindset has to be that we want to become the best team in the league and how can we do that? When you play against good teams I think we always get a sense of where we're at, where we need to improve and that's what a number of these last few games against top quality opponents continues to show us. Hopefully, that will keep us hungry and humble and let us know that there is a lot of work to be done to become one of those teams.
Q:Even though they've been racked by injuries you still consider the Patriots one of those measuring stick teams?
KW:Definitely. The one thing that you can't account for is the veteran leadership, the history, the pride that is in that organization and the fact that for as long as I can remember they've had injuries at different spots. They just continue to believe and they fit somebody in, they expect them to play well and the coaches put them in great positions to win. Year in and year out they're always there. They're always around and competitive and pushing for a title. I don't think this year is any different, even though they've had some injuries and obviously some key injuries. Guys just continue to step in and they continue to win. There's no question that going out there to their place in the situation they're in, still fighting for a playoff spot, yeah this is a tremendous measuring stick for us to see where we're at. Just like many of the last few games have been and here's another one to help us get ready for when playoff time comes.
Q:Do you worry at all about doubt creeping in come playoff time if you go into the playoffs without having beaten one of these measuring stick teams?
KW:I think you always worry about that. You want to be entering the playoffs on a high, winning, on some kind of streak with as much confidence as you've had all year. Yes there's always worry about that. When you get these teams that we've got down the stretch, we've played some tough and we haven't played some tough, so you definitely worry. Especially with a young team that's never been there before. You worry about what they're thinking and what needs to take place for us to be in a position to compete, win and advance in the playoffs. There's definitely a worry about what these last two games are going to mean to us and how it's going to determine how we play in the playoffs.
Q:Do you see any similarities between this team and the one that beat you in the Super Bowl when you were with the Rams?
KW:The one similarity is more the structure of what they do than necessarily players. I haven't really thought about it from a player to player standpoint but watching them on film and seeing some of their schemes and some of the things that coach [Belichick] does, yes it brings back some memories of the times that I've played against them. That includes the Super Bowl, the different things and looks that they give you and how you really have to be ready for anything and be ready to adjust on the move because you're going to see things that you've never seen before. And you're going to have to be ready to adjust to them. I see similarities there but I haven't really pinpointed it from a player to player standpoint.
Q:Thinking back to that game did I read correctly that you send a congratulatory note to Coach Belichick? If so what led you to do that?
KW:Really just to congratulate them on winning the Super Bowl. It's a tremendous accomplishment. For them coming in and us being the favorites and the things that they had accomplished that year and since, I know I've sent him a couple of things along the way basically saying 'hey, what an accomplishment.' That Super Bowl, I thought, was a tremendous accomplishment for their team and I have a lot of respect for Coach [Belichick], the players there and what they accomplished in that organization. As disappointed as I was I still…it's more about just saying congratulations, you accomplished something great. Enjoy it.
Q:What else have you sent coach Belichick along the way?
KW:I believe I sent him something last year when they went undefeated and basically just congratulated them on a tremendous accomplishment. [That is] something that's unheard of and it's something that we all work so hard to do, and it was fun as a football fan to watch something like that and to see the greatness it takes to accomplish that. It was just basically a note to say congratulations for a job well done.
Q:Do you ever get any responses on those?
KW:No. Not usually and I don't expect them. There will be times that I'm sure I'll run across Coach at some point in time and we'll talk about it. I remember running into Coach at one point in time I don't know if it was at the Pro Bowl - we we're both working out one morning. I can't remember exactly where it was, but we sat down and talked a little bit about some of the things that we shared and some of the things that he accomplished. You have opportunities along the way where you touch base and you cross paths but you don't send those things looking for anything in return. It's just a way for me to say I appreciate what you've accomplished and enjoyed watching it.
Q:Is that because you're just a fan of the game?
KW:Yes, I'm a fan of individuals. I'm friends with a lot of individuals, but yeah I'm a fan of the game. I love to watch great people do whatever they do great and football is one of them. I love to see greatness. I love to see people accomplish things that people say they can't accomplish or people don't expect them to accomplish and just do their job in an excellent way. There are times along the way when I see something and just want to recognize somebody's greatness. It's really not that big of a deal. It's just something that I like to do to let people know that, whether it's their peers or just a fan is out there watching and appreciating what they're doing.
Q:What are your impressions of Matt Cassel and the job he's done this year?
KW:Amazing. I think he's done a tremendous job. I think one of the most tremendous things is not just the stats or the wins or where they are at this point but the expectations coming in. With that organization and of course with Tom [Brady] and the way they played last year and he played last year in light of all that and in the shadow of all that to be able to handle himself like he has [is impressive] in so many different ways. Obviously, just another example, last week understanding that he lost his father and coming back and playing the way that he did and being the leader that he has become on that team. [There are] so many things to commend him on what he's accomplished this year. I think it's pretty incredible and he deserves a tremendous amount of credit. I know there are a lot of great people in that organization that have helped him along the way but I believe he deserves a lot of credit in the way that he's played this year and the way that he stepped in and has become a leader for that team.
Q:Having Matt Leinart behind you, a guy that the organization has invested a lot in, how much has that pushed you to be better the last couple of years on a daily basis?
KW:Not really at all. I love Matt and all of that stuff but I don't think I've worked any harder or tried to be great any more than I was before. I've been in those situations before and I've always told myself just do what you do. Continue to work, continue to prepare, continue to play and practice the way that you practice and I let God take care of everything else. I like to think that I didn't have any room to work any harder, just because there was somebody looking over my shoulder or a young guy drafted by my team that didn't push me to do anything that I hadn't done before. I've always pushed myself to want to be great and I don't think that's ever waivered or that's ever changed no matter what circumstance I'm in.
Q:Can you compare the satisfaction level of this second act of your career to the first act?
KW:They are both pretty special. The one difference obviously being the amount of success we had in St. Louis and coming in so quickly and having that success. It was pretty special because nobody gave me one bit of a chance to be able to even play at this level and then to play the way that we did and win the Super Bowl. It was a pretty amazing time and it was pretty amazing to have it happen so quickly but what's so special about this time is that I've been here and I've been a part of this organization for four years. I've really started to understand the history and culture of this organization and you could feel it and you could understand in a lot of different areas why the team had lost for so long. To see the strides that we've made and to see us beginning to overcome that, that is pretty special. I don't think people out there really understand how much goes into turning a whole organization around and changing the view and mentality of the organization. There's a lot of work involved in that. I think that's the sweet part about this second time around. It's not really what I've accomplished but being a part of this process or helping to change the culture of this organization, which I know we did in St. Louis but I wasn't really there long enough to understand that we were the losingest team in the 90's until we did what we did. I didn't understand that culture at that time, but here I think I understand a lot more of it and I understand how difficult it is to make that change. We're a part of that process and I've been part of that process and it's rewarding because of that.
Q:Is it easier to accept the way Super Bowl XXXVI went down now that…
Q:For a couple years that was looking like maybe that was your last hurrah and now that you've gotten back to the level you were before I was wondering if you perceived that Super Bowl loss any differently than maybe a year or two after it when you were struggling to get back into the starting line up or stay healthy?
KW:No, not really. That's still the one game that I probably think about more than any other, even the game that I won. It's one of those things that doesn't come around very often. No matter how much you play or how many Super Bowls you play in everyone is special and you can never get one back. That was one of those situations where we went in as the favorites and even though we were outplayed that day by New England we still felt like we were the better team and we missed an opportunity that doesn't come around very often. Not very many people get to say that they're a two time Super Bowl champion. Not many people get to say that and unfortunately I don't get to say it either. It was a great time for us and it was a tremendous game and it was fun to play in but we still lost and it's disappointing because of that. Every time you get there you want to win and when you don't it's disappointing and it sticks with you.
Q:Your offensive success this year is pretty impressive, is the lack of balance something that might need to be rectified? Do you feel that teams are getting a little too much pressure on you because the running game isn't where it should be?
KW:I definitely think that's always part of it. When a team knows that you're going to throw or that you have to throw it gives them the ability to play differently and to attack differently. I think we all want to improve our running game and hope that we can do that in the next couple of weeks and have that for the playoffs. We know that we need to. We know that it's going to be important and we know how tough it is to play perfect when you're passing as much as we are. I think that's the hard thing and that's the hard thing that along this process is difficult. It's a lot tougher to play perfect or to not have crucial mistakes when you're throwing the ball 45 times a game. It's a difficult way to play. I think we would love to be able to rectify that and to be able to do that in the short term. We continue to try to work on that and hopefully we can get that done.
Q:How dangerous is this receiving trio, three potential 1,000-yard receivers that hasn't happened very often, how fun is it to throw to these guys?
KW:It's definitely fun. It's fun to have the opportunity to work with guys like this. I've been fortunate to play with some great receivers in my career and it never gets old. It's always fun to play with big time talents and to have to opportunity to accomplish some of the things that we've accomplished. I can't say enough about them and the way they work and how much easier they make my job. I'm thankful to be in this situation and have those guys around me. I think they definitely scare a lot of teams when you line up and see three guys that can go out and make plays at any given time.
Q:Specifically Steve Breaston, he had eight catches last year now he's right up there with [Anquan] Bolden and [Larry] Fitzgerald, what have you seen to make him such a threat?
KW:He's just kind of stepped up where we've needed him. You didn't hear a whole lot from him early on then when [Anquan Boldin] sustained his injury he had to step up for us. We needed somebody to pick up part of the load and he's just accelerated from there. I think you see that a lot of times, maybe with a guy like Matt Cassel, or even a guy like Tom Brady when they are thrust into that situation they are going to go one way or the other. I think the great ones always have the ability that when they are thrust in there to be able to handle the situation and thrive in it and I think that's what he's done. Maybe he never stepped up to that role because he was never forced to but once he was forced to he stepped in, he embraced it and he succeeded through it. It reminds me a lot of those two guys in New England and how they got thrust in and they celebrated that opportunity and took advantage of it. Steve's done the same thing for us.
Q:There are a couple of pretty good receivers on the other side as well in Randy Moss and We Welker, what are your impressions of them?
KW:I have high regard for both of those guys. I've seen Randy play, I don't know how many times. [I've] played with him in Pro Bowls and he's just a special, special talent and one of the biggest difference makers at that position that I've ever seen. The thing is he continues to do it year in and year out. It's amazing and it's impressive to watch a guy at that position continually make big play after big play after big play and he's a guy that can change the course of a game at any point in time. I have tremendous respect for him, his skills and what he's able to do and how he's able to change a game. And Wes, I think of it as a football fan, I just appreciate the way he plays the game. I appreciate the fact that he's gotten an opportunity these last couple of years to really showcase his skills because he's a phenomenal player. [He] plays the game fast, plays it the right way, works on every down, uses every bit of ability he has on every given snap. Unfortunately I don't get to see those guys play as much…as a fan I would probably enjoy watching them play but when I have I appreciate both of them and what they bring to the table, their differences but how unique they are in their skill sets.
Q:What are your impressions of how Boldin has comeback from what seemed to be a pretty devastating injury?
KW:I couldn't have much more admiration for the guy. He was a guy that was tremendously respected, not only by me but by everybody in this organization, long before that incident took place. As much as I didn't think there was anymore respect or admiration I could gain for him, watching him compete and play and knowing him like I do I gained some after watching him go through what he's gone through this year. The way that he's done it and how impressive he's been bouncing back from it, the class in which he handled the situation and the hit. I just can't say enough about him as an individual and I think that's what it speaks to first and then to see the way he was able to come back and play. The first time he stepped on the field, to play the same way he was playing when he left the field the last time was impressive because so many people you see that have an injury or get banged up, how tentative they are the first time they go back on the field. Whether they can plant or cut. What it's going to be like to take that first hit. I saw nothing wavering in the way that he went about his job and the way that he prepared to play the game. It was an extremely impressive sight to be able to witness up close and personal.