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The Call Of The Warner

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Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner calls a play at the line of scrimmage against Buffalo earlier this season.

Kurt Warner collects his first DVD -- of the game just completed -- Sunday night, whether it be in the University of Phoenix Stadium locker room or on the charter flight home from a road game.

Monday morning, Warner has a second DVD of "cut-ups" – plays broken down into specific situations – before the team's video department has even finished all of its cut-ups work.

All the while, the Cardinals quarterback has begun talking with coaches, specifically offensive coordinator Todd Haley, about what he may see from the defense of the upcoming opponent. The communication with Haley is constant through the week.

Much of the preparation is in anticipation of Warner calling his own plays the following Sunday.

There was much talk in the offseason when coach Ken Whisenhunt said he was relinquishing most play-calling duties to Haley. But Warner has also moved into play-calling mode at times. It's a certainty in the Cards' no-huddle package, but Warner has earned the confidence of the staff to do it at other times.

"It takes a great amount of trust," Haley said. "You are handing over control of the game to him at times."

Warner said he called a large number of plays against Carolina, because the Panthers refused to back out of a defense that seemingly couldn't handle the no-huddle and multiple-receiver packages. The flow of a game dictates how much the coaches lean on Warner, Haley said, and it made sense to stay with Warner.

Sometimes, the coaches will call two plays – a run and a pass – and it is up to Warner to choose what best can attack the defense that appears.

Sometimes, only the protections for the offensive line are called from the sideline. Then Warner calls the remainder of the play.

"They understand the benefit of, 'OK we will give Kurt this play, but if he wants to change it, he can have the freedom to do that,' " Warner said. "Part of the trust is to get to the point where they know I won't throw it every single snap. That I am trying to do what is best for the team. Yeah, I lean toward the pass. But I am trying to do what is best for the team."

The process began last season, first with the no-huddle. The opportunities expanded as the coaches watched Warner's game preparation and realized, as Warner saw it, that he would call plays that would be successful "instead of just randomly throwing stuff out there for no reason."

Warner studies the film beginning Sunday. Haley said he talks to Warner over and over so both men begin seeing the potential game-plan – and the Cards' potential offensive options – the same way.

"That's a big part of the success, being on the same page," Haley said. "He thinks like me, I think like him."

Warner joked that he tells the coaches to let him call the majority of the plays every week, before adding there are certain games that make more sense for him to do so.

Given that the Cards are the NFL's top scoring team, the No. 2 passing offense and the fifth-ranked offense overall, there is proof it is working.

"I think it helps us as an offense as opposed to calling plays blind and guessing what a defense will be," wide receiver Anquan Boldin said.

Warner has always been a player who felt film study was of great importance. The chance to call some plays gives him a tangible benefit.

"We do that stuff every game," Warner said. "But when we do it and it's successful, it just feeds into, 'Let's stay with it.' "


Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 10/29/08.

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