Quarterbacks Matt Leinart (7) and Derek Anderson stretch out before the first practice of training camp Saturday in Flagstaff.
FLAGSTAFF – The throws came one by one from all the quarterbacks, high arching passes to the corner of the end zone where the trash bin stood, in hope the ball would drop in.
The crowd, big because it was a Saturday and because it was the first day of training camp for the Cardinals, buzzed with each near miss. And it served as a microcosm of the scrutiny the position is under once again.
Watch the quarterbacks. Watch Matt Leinart. Watch Derek Anderson, Dissect their throws, and speculate on how they will do.
"There is no competition like a quarterback competition to create interest," coach Ken Whisenhunt said.
That white-hot spotlight was absent last year. Kurt Warner was the quarterback, undisputed and with a loaded résumé. Now Warner is retired, so the favorite topic of Cardinals' fans and media is wondering what Leinart will bring or even if he will be able to bring it.
The questions aren't going to cease, so the rest of the team must deal.
They deal with it perhaps better than anyone else.
"People get replaced, people move on … it's the way it is," wide receiver Steve Breaston said. "It's not panic mode around here. It may be panic mode out there, but in here we see it, we see it every day. People talk about the revolving door – hey, I have two new people next to me at my locker.
"All I want to say is let Matt have a chance. See what he can do."
Leinart is going to be the quarterback, unless he screws up. This is his chance to emerge from Warner's shadow, and even with Anderson's big arm lurking, Leinart should get the opportunity he has been craving.
He knows people are watching intently, but "I really don't feel the pressure," he said. "It is a pressure situation, and I get that, but this is my job. This is what I am supposed to do."
Leinart has been through these competitions before. The one he had with Warner in training camp of 2008 was not easy, and he took the news hard when coaches informed him before the season Warner would be the starter. He and Warner were friendly, however, and he has the same thing with Anderson.
The two have known each other since seeing each other in high school all-star camps back when they were 17. Anderson, who went through some ugly quarterback battles with Brady Quinn in Cleveland – someone Anderson acknowledged he didn't know before they were pitted against one another – thinks it'll work better with Leinart.
"You don't want dissention in the locker room, guys wanting to play for another guy," Anderson said. "You can't have that. I have been through that, guys trying to get guys on their side. That's not how I go about it, that's not how you should go about it. You let your play talk and that's all you worry about."
Whisenhunt said it's impossible to get away from the outside scrutiny. It is the quarterback position after all. Focusing on the team as a whole, the offense as a whole, is important for the coaching staff "so you don't get caught up in the daily circus."
Whisenhunt's players seem to understand that. That's what happens when a team wins two straight division titles. There is an internal belief in place that success will happen even with a quarterback change – a change, by the way, the players have known about and dealt with since January.
"Sometimes you see other teams and they are worried about who will be quarterback, but I really don't think anyone here cares," running back Tim Hightower said. "We've been battle-tested. We know how to handle all situations. We have a system in place. It's not so much about the players but the system, buying into the system, believing in the system."
Said Breaston, "We will make this work."
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