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New QB, New Leader

Posted Sep 8, 2011

Teams with fresh signal-callers -- like Cards and Kolb -- must adjust

Quarterback Kevin Kolb talks to his offensive linemen during one of the Cards' preseason games.

Absent an offseason, Kevin Kolb had to learn more than how to squeeze the ball into a tightly covered Larry Fitzgerald or the Cardinals’ language on what to call a skinny post.

Among players he didn’t know, he had to step into the most important position on the team and become the leader the spot demands.

The quarterback seemingly didn’t need long.

“In three days, you can figure out what a guy is about,” Kolb said.

When the Cardinals host the Panthers Sunday, both teams are breaking in new QBs, although at vastly different points in their career. Cam Newton is a rookie, and Carolina’s offensive centerpiece is still trying to learn the game. How much his  veteran teammates can look to him – to trust him – remains to be seen.

Kolb, however, has been in the NFL since 2007. He has started a handful of games, and in a league driven by money, he also has the backing of a long-term multi-million dollar contract to help lay a foundation of stability. His personality doesn’t hurt either, a laid-back sort who turns on competitively when on the field.

“You don’t just fall in line behind him,” guard Rex Hadnot said. “It takes some earning guys trust. It is also about the other guys being open-minded and receptive to what is going on. That is what both sides here in Arizona have done and done well. Kevin has come in and led by example and inserted himself, and everyone has accepted and respects him.”

Former teammates in Philadelphia lauded Kolb after he was traded, insisting he would be a success in Arizona. Those kind of comments don’t just come for everyone who moves on.

“I don’t think I had to prove myself to these guys,” Kolb said. “I think they have heard enough and hopefully I have proved it during training camp.

“Look, it’s not just me being a leader. Our whole group is a bunch of leaders, and that’s how I think it has to be.”

That played itself out in the locker room this week, when it was wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and center Lyle Sendlein who were chosen again as offensive captains, rather than Kolb, a newcomer. Inevitably, the quarterback ends up with the leadership spotlight.

It’s one of the reasons there is always trepidation when a rookie takes over, like the Panthers must now deal with Newton. Carolina coach Ron Rivera said Newton has been able to walk the line both being respectful of the veterans on offense and yet still take charge.

Newton is still getting used to the change. He had to quickly become the leader at Auburn (he started just one year) but that was easier because “it wasn’t hard to prove to people that are your so-called peers that you can play,” Newton said. “You’re talking about grown men now.”

“Being a quarterback demands leadership, but at the same time, you can’t just expect things to come into your hands,” Newton said. “You have to hold yourself accountable for a lot of things.”

Newton can’t lean much on performance. Not yet. Kolb has had a solid preseason and performed well in practice, and that automatically earns him something with teammates. With all the talk of Kolb potentially coming to Arizona in the offseason, there was time for veterans to do some reconnaissance.

Once Kolb arrived at training camp, however, he meshed well – like he had been a Cardinal a long time.

“It’s just natural,” Fitzgerald said. “Kevin has gravitated to the leadership role, he is assertive and demanding in the huddle and even in the meeting rooms. It comes with the quarterback position. It falls on him. The success of the offense depends on him so we have to be looking to him.”


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