A Kurt response

Tuesday, November 5, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- When Kurt Warner is ready to play again, and he could return to the lineup as soon as Nov. 18, the St. Louis Rams will not have a quarterback controversy.

Coach Mike Martz threw cold water on any Warner vs. Marc Bulger talk on Monday, a day after Bulger ran his career record to 3-0 in a 27-14 victory over the Arizona Cardinals -- and the day pins were removed from Warner's broken right pinky.

Warner, the NFL's MVP in 1999 and 2001, should pass the ball in practice Wednesday. Team doctors say the finger is not completely healed, but it's close enough and he's scheduled to begin taking snaps a week from Wednesday.

"Oh absolutely, Kurt's our quarterback," Martz said. "That's not in question, that's not for discussion."

Bulger has a passer rating of 94.5, which would be third-best in the NFC if he had enough attempts to qualify. He's thrown six touchdown passes with three interceptions, compared with Warner's one touchdown pass and eight picks and a 66.4 rating in four starts -- all losses -- this season.

Bulger also has benefited greatly from the Rams' reliance on Marshall Faulk. Faulk has accounted for 53 percent of the team's offense the past three games.

So soon it'll be back to the bench for the former third-stringer.

"God bless Marc for the job he's done," Martz said. "He's going to have a brilliant career in his own right, but Kurt is our quarterback. I don't think there's any question about that."

Bulger wasn't complaining a bit.

"It's what I expected," Bulger said. "Just to get a chance to play these three or four games or whatever it is has been fun.

"We're at practice every day and we see what Kurt can do. I have a long way to go and there's a big difference right now."

Bulger also downplayed his hot hand.

"Kurt's had it his whole career," he said. "And it wasn't just Kurt the first four games, it was everyone that wasn't getting the job done."

When Warner was hurt, the Rams estimated he would be out eight to 10 weeks. If he gets back on Nov. 18, he'll have missed seven weeks.

"He's probably a week ahead of schedule," Martz said. "It's still going to take some time.

"The thing that you need to be cautious about is it's still going to take some time with his arm to get back into throwing shape and get his grip back."

Martz characterized Warner's chances of playing against the Chicago Bears on Nov. 18 as a "possibility."

"I don't know how realistic it is," Martz said. "We'll just see. I can watch him throw and know."

No team has recovered from an 0-5 start to make the playoffs, but the defending NFC champions can climb back to .500 with victories over the San Diego this week, then the Bears. Both games are at home. Martz doesn't want the team to feel too good about itself yet.

"The enthusiasm and the excitement, you feel like you're back in it and you're going good," Martz said. "As things progress and we continue to do well, then it'll be the appropriate time to talk about those things.

"At this point we're still behind and it's a step-by-step process to catch up."

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