Quarterback Kurt Warner will make his 20th straight start this season for the Cards -- 16 regular-season, four postseason -- in the Super Bowl.
When Julius Peppers crushed Kurt Warner's left elbow in a 2007 game, it was almost certain the Cardinals quarterback – who was making his first start after Matt Leinart broke his collarbone – would miss some time.
But he didn't.
When Warner won the starting job at the end of training camp, there was a feeling that, at age 37, the chances of him lasting an entire season and making every start were slim.
But he did.
The statistics and production have been incredible for Warner in 2008 and on into the playoffs. But perhaps the biggest reason the Cardinals have reached Super Bowl XLIII is just that Warner has been there, week after week. The Super Bowl will make Warner 20-for-20 in starts this season and give him a string of 31 straight starts overall.
The only snaps he has missed came at the end of the Miami, Minnesota, New England and Seattle games when coach Ken Whisenhunt decided to give Leinart
some work. Warner never missed a play because he was hurt.
"It's one of those things," Warner said. "Sometimes you can play with injuries you have, and bumps and bruises that you have, and sometimes you don't. That's one thing about my career, I haven't really suffered any serious injuries outside of things to my right (throwing) hand. And I can play with most things except for injuries to my right hand."
Warner played though pain last season, playing with torn ligaments in his left elbow and wearing a brace all season. He came back to practice three days after Peppers caused the problem. All Warner did then, despite a truncated year after starting as a backup to Leinart, was threaten a handful of franchise passing records.
This season, Warner started the whole way an obliterated most of the Cards' passing marks. His completions (401), attempts (598), passing rating (96.9), completion percentage (67.1) and touchdowns (30) were all tops in team history. His 4,583 yards was second to Neil Lomax's 4,614 in 1984.
Warner has been even better in the three playoff games, throwing eight touchdowns with a passing rating of 112.1.
"We all know how physical this league is, especially at the quarterback position," Leinart said. "For what he has been able to do this year, I wouldn't say it's a crazy thing, but it's tough to get through a season healthy no matter who you are. A lot of that has to do with how the guys up front have blocked, and Kurt is great about getting rid of the ball quick and not taking hits too."
Warner has had some injuries in his career, but it is the right hand problems that derailed his spectacular showing while playing in St. Louis that many remember. They eventually sent him to the bench in 2002 and later, out of St. Louis.
Warner missed six games with injuries in 2005, and then Leinart arrived. Since 2005 – when he had his year end with a bad knee – Warner hasn't missed a game because of injury.
This year, Warner has taken his share of hits – near 600 pass attempts makes that inevitable – but has never really has his playing status jeopardized. Leinart said that has made the Cardinals stronger, noting that he doesn't think shuffling quarterbacks (like the Cards did briefly last season) is "best for an offense."
"You want to get a feel for each other," Leinart said.
"Having (Kurt) out there is big," wide receiver Steve Breaston said. "Everybody gets in the same rhythm. Any injury can throw an offense off. On the injury front, we've been alright. Right now, everybody knows what each other is doing."
Warner provides in so many other ways, Breaston said. His knowledge of the game helps everybody on the offense, but realistically, Warner could give some of that help from the sideline if he weren't playing.
Right now, Warner – and the Cardinals – are just thankful he is playing.
"I have a funny way of thinking it all worked together for a purpose," Warner said, "and it all worked together to get me here."
Contact Darren Urban at firstname.lastname@example.org. Posted 1/22/09.
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