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Leinart Is The Guy

Despite Anderson signing, Whisenhunt says QB earned right to No. 1


Matt Leinart (above) will be the starter and Derek Anderson the backup for the Cardinals going into the offseason.
Derek Anderson signed, but it was made clear to him he was arriving in Arizona as the second-string quarterback.

Matt Leinart, meanwhile, will get the chance that seemed obvious but instead became disputed in the hot-stove nature of the NFL media in March: He will be the Cardinals' starter.

"Matt has earned the right to be 'The Guy,' " coach Ken Whisenhunt said Wednesday, while talking about Anderson's arrival on a two-year contract. "That's how we will proceed."

Leinart, speaking by phone Wednesday evening, downplayed Whisenhunt's comments.  

"It's nice to hear but it doesn't change my approach and my mindset of what I am doing and how I am working and what I will do to go into the season," Leinart said. "I have talked to coach and told him I am excited for the opportunity and I am ready to get going for the season. My mindset is to become a great quarterback and keep this team playing at the level at which it's been playing." 

Whisenhunt has always been good in pushing forth the idea of competition on his roster. He views quarterback as no different. Anderson, the veteran who made the Pro Bowl as recently as the 2007 season while playing for the Browns, will get snaps with the first unit during offseason and training camp work – just like Leinart did after Kurt Warner had secured the starting job.

But even Anderson understands the situation.

"It was (told) to me I was going to be the number two and come in and compete," Anderson said on a conference call.

"Every training camp I have been involved in (I'm) thinking I am going to play and get better," Anderson said. "Obviously, my job will be to push Matt and make him better."

Much has been made about Whisenhunt's reluctance to unequivocally name Leinart the starter, including a recent radio appearance in which Whisenhunt didn't outright endorse Leinart. But it was from that situation that Whisenhunt drew encouragement from Leinart's reaction.

"Matt, rather than cringe from that, said he was excited about the opportunity and he knew there would be competition but he was going to show he would be ready to play," Whisenhunt said. "That showed me he was in a good place."

Leinart was also in text contact with Whisenhunt Wednesday, talking about his excitement of the beginning of offseason work. Signing someone like Anderson was not a surprise, Leinart said, not that it would matter whomever the Cardinals signed at quarterback.

"This is my time, the opportunity I have wanted and it is here," Leinart said. "I am more focused and hungrier than I have ever been in my entire football career, college and pro."

Anderson said he played in a similar offensive system when former Cardinals running backs coach Maurice Carthon was offensive coordinator in Cleveland. Whisenhunt said he didn't think Anderson would have much trouble picking up the Cards' scheme.

Whether Anderson – who had three touchdown passes and 10 interceptions in 2009 playing for the struggling Browns two years after his big Pro Bowl season – can surpass Leinart at any point is an unknown. And Whisenhunt clearly didn't think it was the time to get into the way Leinart could lose his spot.

"Right now, with us being four-and-a-half months from training camp, that'd be premature to talk about," Whisenhunt said.

The Cardinals will continue to search for more quarterbacks, given there are only two on the roster. Free agency remains a possibility, with Whisenhunt referring to available players "who have been with us before" – a reference to Brian St. Pierre, the Cards' third-stringer the past two seasons.

The Cards will also consider drafting a quarterback, or signing an undrafted rookie.

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