Rams to cross paths with Warner for first time

Thursday, September 15, 2005

ST. LOUIS -- It's the standard, not the shadow that St. Louis Rams quarterback Marc Bulger battles since he replaced his mentor Kurt Warner.

Now Bulger and the Rams (0-1) will meet Warner and the Arizona Cardinals (0-1) this Sunday. It will be the first time the Rams have played Warner since the two-time NFL MVP and Super Bowl XXXIV MVP was released in 2004.

Naturally, Bulger anticipated being questioned about Warner on Wednesday at Rams Park. Warner directed the Rams when the offense was known as the Greatest Show on Turf.

Following Warner, who led the Rams to two Super Bowls, is not a problem or a hindrance, Bulger said.

"I could be in a situation where I'm not playing or the expectations are not so high," Bulger said. "You've got to win a Super Bowl here. It's obvious if you want to be compared to that 1999 to 2001 team. You know what the goal is. You've got to win a Super Bowl. Anything besides that is not going to cut it."

In that span, Warner became the fastest player in NFL history to reach 10,000 passing yards. He twice posted a perfect passer rating of 158.0. In doing so, he became the first player in the league to post two "perfect" games.

Such a legacy would make it difficult for the next quarterback. However, Bulger said he can live with it.

"I can handle it. It doesn't bother me," Bulger said. "They had maybe the best offense we'll ever see in the NFL. It's not like it was a team that wasn't any good and I'm trying to live up to that."

Bulger stays in touch with Warner. The two talk at least once a month. He did not say if the two would talk this week.

"It's not like we're going to call each other to make it a good story or anything," Bulger said. "We might talk; we might not. We'll see."

Clearly, Bulger has affection for Warner, whom he replaced for good in 2003. Warner never tried to undermine Bulger; rather he accepted the demotion with class. Warner continued to assist Bulger to speed his improvement.

"He helped me out a whole lot," Bulger said. "He was here and knew the system when I was third (string). Obviously, when I started to play, he was great. When I took over, he was great. Nothing's changed.

"He just taught me pretty much how to become a quarterback in the league and what it takes."

From his perspective, Warner said Bulger has nothing to prove. However, he has empathy for Bulger because everyone expects him to play like he did during that glorious run with the Rams.

"You don't get rid of it," Warner said. "I know Marc's dealing with it. There's that standard. Every year when you step on the football field, they expect you to play at that kind of level. It's hard to do. It was a great run we had. It was one of those special, special periods.

"I feel for him but at the same time, I don't feel too bad for him. The guy has had nothing but success in the league. He's played good football. He's been in the Pro Bowl. He's an excellent quarterback."

The Rams are coming off a disheartening 28-25 road loss to San Francisco. Bulger attempted a Ram record 56 passes in a single game. He completed 34 and passed for 362 yards and two touchdowns.

However, the Rams reached the red zone five times and scored just one touchdown to go along with four field goals. Bulger also was sacked seven times, many for holding onto the ball for too long. He also threw an interception in the waning seconds to thwart a possible comeback bid.

There is pressure on St. Louis to get a win this week, Bulger said.

"Sure, even if we would have won last week there's always pressure to win this week," Bulger said. "We had to back into the playoffs last year and we don't want to get into that situation again."

St. Louis coach Mike Martz knew the day would come when his club would face Warner again.

"The way I look at it to be honest with you is, I knew he would come back in this capacity and play very well and play at a high level," Martz said. "That's the assumption I had when he left here. I'm happy for him things are working out that way."

Warner said he wants to get his Cardinals into the win column after getting pounded by the New York Giants. It's not because the Rams bid him adieu.

"Do I want to win? You bet I want to win," Warner said. "There's no hard feelings or animosity."

NOTES: Backup lineman Blaine Saipaia practiced with first team at right tackle. Rex Tucker left Sunday's game in the fourth quarter with a calf injury. Tucker is out for Sunday's game. ... CB Terry Fair (neck) is listed as doubtful and WR Kevin Curtis (ankle) is listed as probable.

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