Matt Leinart leads the Cards out of the tunnel before the preseason opener.
FLAGSTAFF – Early in the week, coach Ken Whisenhunt watched Matt Leinart throw a 42-yard touchdown pass in practice during a two-minute, 11-on-11 drill. At worst, it looked like a close call, and the offense thought Stephen Williams was in bounds.
Whisenhunt called it no good – just to see how Leinart would respond.
"In a game it would be a touchdown," Leinart said with a smile a few days later. "You just bounce back from … I wouldn't call it adversity, but you didn't get the call you want or the play you want, so how do you respond, and you keep grinding."
There is little question Leinart's statistics and game performance are scrutinized often – "I can throw an incomplete pass and it is the worst thing ever," Leinart noted in how closely he is watched – but so too are some of the intangibles.
His passion on the field has been called into question, although Leinart said his personality tends to be calm. That includes on the field. He said he is vocal at times, but he said the respect he is seeking on the field comes from making plays rather than barking at teammates.
Mostly though, Leinart plans to go about his business. While he wants to show Whisenhunt how he will respond to certain situations, he isn't worried about outside complaints.
"I have dealt with so much criticism it doesn't bother me what people say anymore," Leinart said. "I can only let my play do the talking."
Leinart remembers his rookie season, when Kurt Warner – the man who later led the Cards to the Super Bowl – was booed off the field in the third game of 2006 because of turnover problems. Warner didn't play at University of Phoenix Stadium again that season.
"As a quarterback it's going to happen, even if you are playing well there are people that don't like you, there are people that don't want to see you succeed," Leinart said. "Big deal. I don't really care. That was what was so great about Kurt, he could care less what people said.
"I can remember it clearly, there were boos … (Kurt) even texted me before camp, (telling me) 'Don't let one bad game or don't let anyone else define you. Move on to the next day, the next play.' That's this position."
THE "OTHER" RECEIVERS
Larry Fitzgerald is out with a knee injury, and Whisenhunt said he will continue be conservative with Early Doucet's abdomen. That leaves a lot of opportunities for the rest of the receiving corps Monday night against Tennessee.
Interestingly, in three-receiver sets, it is rookies Stephen Williams and Andre Roberts running alongside Steve Breaston. Meanwhile, Onrea Jones – who had emerged from OTAs this summer as the fourth receiver – is still trying to gain traction on the depth chart.
"I'm not worried," Jones said. "It's about what I am doing on the field, and as long as I do that and stick around, maybe my opportunity will come."
Jones knows the playbook well enough by now in his third camp, and gives the Cards some leeway in where to play him. Max Komar and Darren Mougey also should see more time this week.
One question mark is Mike Jones, just added because of the injuries. At 6-4, Jones has some size, but whether he can make a quick enough impact to stick around long-term is another story.
"One day I could think I'm never going to play again and then the phone rings and I am halfway across the country," said Jones, an Arizona State product who has spent time with the Seahawks and Texans. "I am glad I am here and that it worked out this way."
Doucet isn't expected to play in Tennessee. He might play against Chicago, but Whisenhunt admitted he may not return until the preseason finale.
Whisenhunt reiterated he wants to see rookie quarterback Max Hall play in Tennessee but added he wasn't sure it would happen. …
Tickets are on sale now for the Cardinals' kickoff luncheon, scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Sept. 1 at University of Phoenix Stadium. Proceeds benefit Cardinals Charities, and the lunch allows you to meet players, gather autographs and listen to team members talk about the upcoming season. Click here for details.
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