Broken hand puts Warner on the bench

Tuesday, December 3, 2002

ST. LOUIS -- Kurt Warner said his throwing hand was fine, but Rams coach Mike Martz didn't buy it. Martz was right.

On Monday, X-rays showed that a hairline fracture on Warner's right hand will sideline him two to three weeks, although Martz said he'll be the No. 3 quarterback during that time.

The injury is at the base of the right hand but is unrelated to the broken pinkie that sidelined Warner for almost two months earlier this season. Warner could play, in theory, but Martz said the pain is too strong.

Martz said backup quarterback Jamie Martin would start this week at Kansas City and Marc Bulger would be No. 2. Bulger has a sprained right index finger and has been unable to throw more than 10 yards since the injury Nov. 18 against Chicago.

"Marc is a ways away, I think," Martz said of Bulger, who led the Rams to five straight victories while Warner recovered from a broken pinkie as they evened their record after an 0-5 start. "At this point, Marc is not probably an alternative."

Warner appeared to have trouble gripping the ball in Sunday's 10-3 loss at Philadelphia. He fumbled trying to tuck the ball in, and also lost control of the ball trying to pass as the Rams went without a touchdown for the first time since Dec. 3, 2000, at Carolina.

Thus far, Warner bears no resemblance to the guy who's been the NFL's MVP two of the past three years. He has 11 interceptions with only three touchdown passes, and counting the Super Bowl is 0-7 as the starter since the Rams won the NFC championship game last January.

At least, the Rams now have a reason for his latest woes. Last week, doctors believed the injury was a bruise to the palm and Warner didn't take snaps in practice to allow the swelling to go down.

Against Philadelphia, Warner threw two interceptions and lost his third fumble of the season. Martz criticized Warner for underthrowing Isaac Bruce on a probable touchdown pass in the third quarter, for holding the ball too long on a fumble, and for his timing and game-management skills.

St. Louis averaged 32 points during its dominant three-year run as the "Greatest Show on Turf," with Warner leading them to two Super Bowls. But with Warner this year, the Rams are averaging only 13.5 points.

Three of his interceptions have been returned for scores, including the lone touchdown by Bobby Taylor in Sunday's Eagles game.

"I think I felt good, it was just a lot of crazy things happened," Warner said after the game. "It's frustrating to come away not doing what you needed to do to have this team win. It hurts."

Martin was the backup before injuring his knee in a 37-13 loss to San Francisco in Week 5, his only start. Martz said Martin actually was hurt the previous week stepping in for Warner in a 13-10 loss to the Cowboys.

Though Bulger led the Rams to five straight victories in place of Warner, the comeback hit the skids when Warner returned.

The Rams were poised for a come-from-behind victory Nov. 24 at Washington before LaVar Arrington zoomed around beleaguered right tackle John St. Clair and stripped an indecisive Warner for a game-deciding fumble. Warner also threw an interception at the end of the first half against the Redskins, costing the Rams points.

At Philadelphia, Warner had to play most of the way behind a banged-up line minus injured All-Pro tackle Orlando Pace and was sacked eight times.

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