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Proceeding With Caution

Posted Nov 23, 2009

Warner expected to play but tests will quantify quarterback's status

 Quarterback Kurt Warner will be evaluated as the week goes on to see if he can return to the field in Tennessee after suffering a head injury in St. Louis.
 
 
On the plane ride back from St. Louis late Sunday night, Kurt Warner and Ken Whisenhunt talked.

They talked about the Titans, whom the Cardinals would visit in a week. They talked about potential plays. Warner even watched Tennessee video on his computer. Warner didn't seem affected much, if at all, from the concussion-like symptoms that forced him out of the 21-13 win over the Rams.

Monday, Whisenhunt sounded optimistic Warner would be able to play against Tennessee -- “I didn’t see anything that led me to believe there would be an issue,” Whisenhunt said -- although Warner sounded not quite as confident as he had immediately after the game.
 
“You always take it one day at a time, especially with a head injury,” Warner said Monday afternoon. “I feel pretty good today. I don’t know if I feel 100 percent right now. So that’s how I approach it. We’re going to be safe and we’re going to make sure I am good to go before I get back out there. But I feel a lot better today than I did yesterday, and that’s progress."
 
Warner will undergo a baseline test, likely Tuesday, to see where his head injury stands. Whisenhunt reiterated Warner suffered “concussion-like symptoms” and said that, right now, it’s still unknown if Warner officially has a concussion – defined by neurosurgerytoday.org as an “injury to the brain that results in temporary loss of normal brain function.”

“I just wasn’t perfect and I was aware of that,” Warner said after the game.

Whisenhunt also repeated that the Cardinals would “err on the side of caution” when it came to Warner’s health. The Cards do have a three-game lead in the NFC West, but Whisenhunt emphasized any decisions to sit or not sit players is based on the best way to win games.

That could mean long-term wins rather than short-term, however, and having a healthy Warner for a probable playoff berth is important. Otherwise, it’s clear the Cards can best win by having Warner on the field.

Under Warner’s direction, the Cards are second in the NFL in red-zone proficiency, scoring touchdowns at a 70.3 percent rate. The last three games – all wins, since his six-turnover day against Carolina – Warner has completed 66-of-89 passes for 804 yards, nine touchdowns and no interceptions.

Warner’s 89 passes in a row without an interception is the longest active streak for any NFL starting quarterback. Warner would also be making his 42nd straight start – including the postseason – if he does so at Tennessee.

“Kurt is as tough as they come and he’s a tough cookie,” wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “He has played through injuries his entire career but you don’t want to mess with the head too much.”

If Warner can’t go, Whisenhunt expects Matt Leinart to step in as Leinart did against the Rams. Monday, Whisenhunt said “there were a lot of things we didn’t allow him to do” against the Rams because of the heavy pressure the Rams were forced to use being behind.

“When you get into an NFL regular season game and you haven’t played much, you don’t just go in and think you’re going to tear it up,” Whisenhunt said. “Sometimes that happens, but by and large, it doesn’t. He doesn’t get a lot of reps in practice. I give Matt credit. He was prepared, he knew what he was trying to do, he fought and tried to make some plays.”

EXTRA POINTS

Whisenhunt said he considered kicking a field goal on the first drive of the second half, when Leinart directed the offense to the St. Louis 33-yard line before stalling. Whisenhunt chose to punt rather than try a 51-yard field goal by kicker Neil Rackers. Ben Graham’s punt was downed at the Rams’ 2.

“I had confidence in Neil,” Whisenhunt said. “But at that point I felt to make (the Rams) go a long distance of the field would make them take time off the clock and it was the right strategic thing to do. Ben bailed me out by putting it down there by the 2. If we had missed (a field goal), it would have given it to them at their 41-yard line and they’d have a shorter field.” …

Whisenhunt said he did not know the status of cornerback Bryant McFadden (right knee bruise), although he added “it shouldn’t be a big issue.” McFadden sat out the second half Sunday, but was walking under his own power after the game. …

Linebacker Chike Okeafor (back), who has missed two straight games, should return to practice this week.
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