For team's benefit, keep Bulger No. 1, Warner says

Thursday, September 18, 2003

ST. LOUIS -- Now that Marc Bulger has the Rams' quarterback job, Kurt Warner expects him to keep it for a while.

Warner said Wednesday that coach Mike Martz needs to stick with his choice, even if it's not him.

"You have to say, 'This is our guy, we're going to go with him,'" Warner said. "The two times we went to the Super Bowl I didn't play 16 straight games.

"But you can't always be looking over your shoulder. You just have to go out and play."

Warner, the two-time MVP, learned Monday he would be a healthy backup at least for this week after missing Sunday's 27-24 overtime victory over the 49ers due to a concussion. Martz has been careful not to make a long-term commitment, and he said earlier in the week that he felt a sense of loyalty to Warner, who led the team to two Super Bowls.

So it's been tough on the coach, too, and he bristled at a question about whether Warner accepted the demotion.

"Now, I appreciate his judgment and his opinion, but he's not the head coach," Martz said. "And I'll make those decisions, and I'll make the decision on how I'm going to deal with it."

Warner, who's winless in his last eight starts dating to the 2001 Super Bowl, even called Bulger to offer his congratulations.

"As disappointed as I was and as much as I wanted the opportunity, I was that excited for Marc," Warner said. "I always point to a scripture in the Bible where it says 'Rejoice when others rejoice and weep when others weep.'

"I want to see him succeed, I want this team to succeed, and that's what prompted me to call him to say 'Hey, I'm in your corner."'

That eased Bulger's mind over taking the job Warner has held for four seasons.

"I know Kurt wants to play and how big of a competitor he is," Bulger said. "It's probably killing him inside but he's doing what's best for the team, and if I ever go back to the bench I'd do the same."

Warner didn't talk to Martz about the decision until Wednesday, however. The quarterback learned his fate while visiting sick children at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital.

When Martz made the announcement Monday that he was going with Bulger, he said he was unsuccessful in an attempt to reach Warner.

"Obviously I would have loved to have heard it from him or somebody in the organization as opposed to hearing it outside of here," Warner said. "But from my understanding they tried to get a hold of me and it didn't work out, so you just move on."

Bulger, who rallied the Rams after halftime last week, was low key as usual on Wednesday. He'll try to build on a 7-1 record as the starter on Sunday at Seattle.

"I'm excited, but it's not anything that huge," Bulger said. "Am I supposed to do cartwheels?

"If we win, that's when I get excited."

Bulger got the job over a healthy Warner for the first time in his career. Last year, he inherited the job after Warner broke his pinky in Game 3.

"I don't think it changes anything," Bulger said. "Whether Kurt is healthy or not, it can't affect how I prepare.

"It's nice to know that if something would happen to me we have Kurt in there, but as far as my preparation, it won't change."

It'll change a great deal for Warner, who'll be running the scout team for the second straight week. Last week he was still coming off his concussion.

"It's a whole different mentality to still prepare and be ready when your number is called, but to know you're not going to be the same guy out there," Warner said. "I'll focus a lot on how I can help Marc."

Warner said it's way too soon to start pondering whether this is the end of his run in St. Louis.

"We're only in Week 3 and we've got a long way to go for me to start thinking about next year and the future," Warner said. "We'll just see what God has in store for me down the road."

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