Plan A - Release Warner

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

ST. LOUIS -- Kurt Warner's storybook career with the St. Louis Rams is all but over.

The two-time NFL MVP expects to be released after being told he won't be the Rams' starting quarterback next season, his agent, Mark Bartelstein, said Tuesday.

Warner, who rose from a small-college star stocking grocery store shelves to Super Bowl hero, was given permission to contact other teams.

Coach Mike Martz met with Warner and starter Marc Bulger to tell them of the decision, Bartelstein said. The move ends offseason talk of training-camp competition between the two.

Bartelstein said he expects a lot of interest in Warner from other teams. "He's too good of a quarterback to sit on the bench," he said.

St. Louis would probably wait after June 1 to cut Warner to reduce the effect on its salary cap.

Rams spokesman Duane Lewis said Martz would address the situation at a predraft news conference on Wednesday, but he added, "At this point, nothing is final."

Bulger started all but one game last season after Warner sustained a concussion and fumbled six times in the opening loss to the New York Giants. Bulger was a Pro Bowl alternate and ended up as the MVP in that game in February.

Warner appeared in only one other game, in a mop-up role. It was a long fall from grace for a star who led the Rams to two Super Bowls.

Warner got the starting job in 1999 after Trent Green injured his knee. The season became a blur of success for a team that had endured a decade of losing records.

Warner led the NFL with 41 touchdown passes, helped the Rams build a 13-3 record and was the Super Bowl MVP after a 23-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans.

After an injury-plagued 2000 he was back for more in 2001, this time leading the Rams to a 14-2 record. But the favored Rams lost to the Patriots in the Super Bowl, and nothing much has gone right for Warner since.

He missed half of the 2002 season with hand injuries, throwing only three touchdown passes with 11 interceptions. That gave Bulger his first chance to shine with victories in his first six career starts.

Warner appeared to have regained his form last year with a strong preseason before his stumbling start in New York. Bulger never gave the Rams a reason to reconsider Warner the rest of the year.

Warner, who is deeply religious, also didn't help his cause when he said on Super Bowl Sunday that Rams coaches advised him to spend more time on the playbook than the Bible.

The quarterback later apologized for the remarks, which angered Martz, and his agent said they had been taken out of context.

Warner's fate probably was sealed when Bulger, a restricted free agent, did not receive an offer sheet from another team by Friday's deadline.

Earlier in the offseason, the Rams signed veteran Chris Chandler as a backup, the first signal that they were prepared to cut Warner or Bulger.

There's a slight chance the 32-year-old Warner could be back. If the Rams are unable to sign Bulger to a long-term contract, or if Bulger or Chandler gets injured, the situation could change.

"It's not written in stone ... but that's the path we're heading toward," Bartelstein said.

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