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A Tale Of Two Matts


Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel (left) sat on the bench behind Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart (right), but Cassel is the one getting playing time now.

If anyone can understand what Matt Leinart is going through, it's Matt Cassel.

The Patriots quarterback and former Leinart college teammate at USC gets sitting and waiting. Cassel did it his whole career with the Trojans as Leinart was winning the Heisman Trophy as a three-year starter, and then had done the same in New England.

Ironically, Cassel has gotten the chance to play this season when Tom Brady went down with a knee injury in the first game of the season, while Leinart – the former first-round pick – has been stuck on the bench.

"He has got his chance and he is proving he can play," Leinart said. "It's cool. I am happy for him."

The two talk every once in a while during the season. Leinart texted Cassel last week after the news broke that Cassel's father had died. Leinart said the two were "tight" in college, with adjoining lockers for four years.

Cassel said he realizes Leinart is frustrated in his circumstance.

"As a competitor, you want to be out there," Cassel said. "But when you are able to step back and learn from a guy like Kurt (Warner), because he's so good and so established, you can learn a lot of things. When Matt steps in to take over that team, he'll be ready and probably more prepared."

Cassel sat for three years before this season, attempting just 39 passes. This season, he has 3,270 yards passing with 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Leinart, meanwhile, can only hope coach Ken Whisenhunt is willing to put him in in relief of Warner as the Cards prepare for the playoffs.

"I couldn't be happier for the year (Cassel) is having," Leinart said.


Wide receiver Anquan Boldin (shoulder) and running back J.J. Arrington (knee) each sat out of practice for a second straight day. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said their replacements – Steve Breaston and Early Doucet for Boldin, Tim Hightower and Edgerrin James for Arrington – would be more than capable of filling any holes if either one could not play.

Arrington has emerged as the Cards' most productive running back, while Boldin was just named to the Pro Bowl and leads the NFC in catches with 89.

Whisenhunt emphasized if Boldin and/or Arrington are ready to play, they will definitely play. But the Cardinals "have to be smart."

"Obviously in this type of situation, with a (playoff) game two weeks away, you want to make sure you have as many of your guys available for that game," Whisenhunt said. "That has to take priority.

"If this was a game that for us meant to get into the playoffs, it would be a completely different scenario. We are certainly aware of that."

Defensive end Travis LaBoy (ankle) was the only other Cardinal to sit out of practice.


Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Cardinals special teams coach Kevin Spencer have history, and it goes further back than when Spencer was on Belichick's staff in Cleveland in the early 1990s. The two clashed on the lacrosse field in college, when Spencer played for Springfield (Mass) College and Belichick played for Wesleyan University in Connecticut in the mid-1970s.

Spencer said his team felt, coming from a physical education school, it would smash the team with a liberal arts bent.

"You see a team come with hair coming out of the backs of their helmets, we thought they were (wimps)," Spencer said, adding that Belichick looked sloppy in his uniform.

But, Spencer said, Belichick "literally coached the team" from his midfielder spot, foreshadowing his future career.

"It depends on who you talk to on that one, whether I scored a couple or he shut me out," Belichick said. "There's some confusion as to what happened on a couple of those goals, whether I was actually his man or not. (But) Kevin was a good lacrosse player in

Cleveland. I have a lot of respect for him."

Spencer complimented Belichick as well, although he did note that Belichick came across the middle one time looking for a pass. "I knocked him on his (butt)," Spencer said.

Contact Darren Urban at Posted 12/18/08.

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