In the end, it all seemed kinda anticlimactic.
Kurt Warner walked out and said, right off the top and with no big buildup, that he was retiring. And, save for a couple of moments when it sounded like he might get a little dusty talking about his wife and kids, there was nothing close to tears.
I suppose that's how I am so certain Warner a) is making the right decisions and b) doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell to pull a Favre. It seems to me guys cry at retirement press conferences most of the time because, down deep, they don't want to be saying goodbye. They would rather keep playing, but for some reason can't. I don't think that's the case for Warner, who made it clear Friday.
"There is no question in my mind I am leaving at the right time," he said, and while it probably pained coach Ken Whisenhunt and the rest of the Cardinals' organization (and many, many fans), who are we to argue?
We've all known for a while this was a possibility. I'll be honest, knowing how much Kurt liked to play the game and how hard he fought to pull his career up by the bootstraps after it was basically dead halfway through the 2006 season, I thought he'd play out his current contract. He said as much when he signed the deal in March. Obviously, though, things changed during the season. And truthfully, there isn't anything else for him to accomplish that he hasn't already. Would he have liked to have won a Super Bowl in Arizona? Sure, but those aren't odds you can bet on, and when he said today he couldn't — mentally or emotionally — handle playing another season, then you have to move on.
Another key point, something that is always possible as a player ages (Warner will be 39 in May): "I don't know if I could have handled playing at a lesser level. I think that would have frustrated me."
Some other thoughts here in the wake of Warner saying farewell:
-- It was interesting to hear Warner talk about the time frame of his retirement contemplation — especially with the idea that the concussion in St. Louis, while it played a part, was only just a piece of the puzzle and that he was already leaning toward it being his last season by then.
-- Warner thanked all three teams he played for — the Rams, Giants and Cards — for giving him opportunities. "It took three different teams taking a chance on me at three different times, three different situations, to allow me to accomplish what I accomplished," Warner said. When you think about it, all three teams did take a chance. Warner was an NFL nobody when he got his start with the Rams, he seemed to be a broken-down player when the Giants brought him in, and when the Cards got him, it seemed like Warner's glory was well in the past. You could see why ending his career strong — and changing the perceptions so many had of him (and which Warner hated) — was so important.
-- I would be shocked if Warner doesn't make the Hall of Fame. Whether he makes it on the first go-round after the 2014 season is something different. If Brett Favre retires this season (and I mean really retires, not retires until mid-August), that's a big-time quarterback who'll be in before Warner and then it'll come down to who else is eligible. But Warner will get in sooner rather than later, I believe.
-- Warner said his newfound free time will be spent preaching his religion and speaking to groups, writing (hey, maybe he can do some work for azcardinals.com!) and perhaps some TV or radio. Plenty to keep him busy. He did say he wants to have a hand in football in some way, but emphasized anything he does will have to work around him having plenty of family time. So once again, forget about him coaching.
-- Classic Kurt, but he also said he doesn't necessarily want to be remembered for football. "I hope people remember anything is possible. I hope that's what people remember more than anything else. Not the way I threw the football, not the games I won, but they remember here's a guy that believed, that worked hard, and while things didn't always go in his favor, he continued to press through and was able to accomplish great things."
How could you forget that about the grocery bagger?
-- If you're looking for more, there's a photo gallery from the press conference, a top 10 list of Kurt's best games in an Arizona uniform, and a timeline of Warner's years as a Cardinal.
-- The retirement aftershocks will be an ongoing story with regard to the team. There is a lot to write about Matt Leinart and the QB position and where this team goes from here. But like Whisenhunt repeated once or twice after Warner's announcement, there will be plenty of time to talk about that. It's only January. Today was about Warner, and his amazing story.
As Warner was bouncing around to do the various radio and one-on-one TV interviews after the press conference, myself and the Republic's Kent Somers caught him quickly just to shake his hand and say thanks. As has been noted many times, if a media member could draw up the perfect athlete, it was Kurt. As we delivered our thank yous, Warner actually apologized for not returning text messages we each had sent earlier in the week. Warner was on vacation in Mexico, and while he could receive texts, he couldn't send them, he said. I had to smile. I just assumed he wasn't going to answer the text. I am guessing he got more than a few text messages this week. Besides, what high-profile athlete apologizes for such a thing?