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Getting a Handle On Ball Security

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The ball is stripped from quarterback Kurt Warner during the Cardinals' game in Oakland earlier this preseason.

Fumbles have long been an issue with Kurt Warner, and no one knows that better than him.

So this offseason, while he battled Matt Leinart for the Cardinals' starting quarterback job, his top priority was improving ball security.

"Not that it hasn't always been an emphasis, but it was even more of an emphasis this year with the coaches, just trying to do the best you can to secure the football," Warner said. "You don't ever want to make a bunch of dumb mistakes and put your team in a difficult spot. I hope as the season progresses it becomes a natural thing, a natural reaction to cover up, to put two hands on the ball."

Last season, in 14 games and 11 starts, Warner had 12 fumbles according to NFL.com, losing six of them. He had 10 fumbles (losing three) in six games in 2006, and nine (losing five) in 10 games in 2005.

Warner has 80 fumbles in 93 career games.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Warner's biggest issue is keeping two hands on the ball in the pocket, when defenders are flying by and can take a swipe at the ball or Warner's arm even if they can't get a clear shot at sacking him.

"The gloves have helped a little bit too," Whisenhunt said.

Warner began wearing gloves after he was benched in 2006. That year, all 10 of Warner's fumbles came in the first 3½ games he played before being sat for Leinart. Warner began trying gloves in practice soon after.

While Warner was often spectacular last season with his 27 touchdown passes, the Cardinals' coaches would like to cut down on his 23 turnovers (Warner also had 17 interceptions).

"It's that fine line about trying to be aggressive and make plays and make guys miss and getting out of the pocket," Warner said, "but doing it in a smart way and protecting the football."

DOCKETT'S PENALTIES

Pro Bowl defensive tackle Darnell Dockett has long built his game on emotion, but it's been emotional penalties that have hurt both himself and the team. Whisenhunt even benched him briefly in a preseason game this year after Dockett was flagged for another 15-yard mistake.

Dockett said Whisenhunt has asked him to be more careful. Dockett said he'll try – within reason.

"Certain things that happen in the game, those things I am working on," Dockett said. "They definitely hurt the team.

"(But) I'm not going to let it take away from my aggression, I am going to keep playing 110 percent and definitely not going to think about every time on the field don't get a penalty. Every time I am on the field I am going to think about getting after somebody. That's the approach I am taking."

WELLS IN THE MIDDLE

Starting left guard Reggie Wells said his work this week as backup center has been "OK." Wells is Lyle Sendlein's backup with Al Johnson still out and no other center on the roster.

But Wells said preparing to start at guard yet also get some reps at center isn't that big of a deal, because of his beginnings as a backup.

"Unless you came in and given a starting role from your first day, one way or another you've had to play a multitude of positions," said Wells, who actually worked as a backup center in practice during 2005 training camp. "That's one of the reasons you do that, so you are ready regardless who gets injured."

INJURY UPDATE

Nose tackle Gabe Watson (knee) finally was cleared for some limited practice Thursday, the first time he had been on the field for a practice since last season. Watson hurt his knee in mid-April, before minicamp. Nose tackle Alan Branch (ankle) sat out again. Watson won't play in San Francisco and Branch's chances are fading. Johnson (knee) remains out.

Tackle Mike Gandy (knee) and tight end Ben Patrick (ankle) both are practicing. Gandy should be fine to start Sunday. Tight end Jereme Tuman (hamstring) was limited.


Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 9/4/08. Uodated 9/4/08.

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