Warner Plays Through the Pain

Quarterback Kurt Warner attempts a pass. He played with a torn ligament in his left elbow, which forced him to make handoffs with his right hand.
Quarterback Kurt Warner attempts a pass. He played with a torn ligament in his left elbow, which forced him to make handoffs with his right hand. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
By Paul Tenorio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 22, 2007

All week long, the question about whether Kurt Warner would be able to start at quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals yesterday lingered.

Warner had torn a ligament in the elbow of his left, non-throwing arm last week and, even if he decided he could play, there was no telling how effective he would be playing with essentially one arm.

"I had in the back of my mind, if I could, I would," Warner said. "I had some setbacks so we weren't sure, but we all hoped that I would be able to."

After pregame warmups, Warner decided he could play through the pain, and he nearly led the Cardinals to an upset in their 21-19 loss at FedEx Field.

Warner's gutsy play was extolled by his teammates and coaches after the game, with Coach Ken Whisenhunt saying he was, "proud of Kurt and the way he hung in there." Even Redskins associate head coach-offense Al Saunders, who won a Super Bowl as Warner's coordinator for the St. Louis Rams in 2000, praised him.

"What a courageous kid," said Saunders, who waited for Warner outside his news conference to congratulate him. "He can't even lift his left arm. You've got to be tough to play that position, but that guy's really tough."

Warner struggled at times early, throwing two interceptions in the first half -- including one pick that was returned for a score by linebacker London Fletcher. But Warner and the Cardinals' passing attack found its rhythm as the game progressed.

Warner completed 27 of 41 passes for 282 yards and two touchdowns, also manufacturing a third touchdown drive capped by backup Tim Rattay's one-yard touchdown pass to Leonard Pope that pulled Arizona within two points late in the fourth quarter.

"We did enough in the second half to win," Warner said after the game. "It's frustrating when you go out and spot a team 14 points. It's tough to come back from that. We just didn't finish a couple plays late in the game."

Because of the injury, Warner was forced to make all handoffs with his right hand. And because of concerns about his elbow in tight exchanges, Rattay played in the goal-line packages. But otherwise, Warner played as though he was healthy.

Early on, however, it seemed like the injury was hampering Warner. He was intercepted by safety Sean Taylor on a deep pass on the Cardinals' second drive of the game. In the second quarter, Fletcher stepped in front of a Warner pass and returned it 27 yards for a score. But Warner said the injury was not to blame for the pick, instead crediting the Redskins' defense for forcing the mistake.

"Against a defense like this you have to anticipate, you have to let the ball go a little earlier than against other teams," Warner said. "If you miss, you just hope they don't make plays. Today in the first half, they did."

Warner's anticipation was much more effective after Fletcher's interception.

In the final seconds of the first half, he hit wide receiver Anquan Boldin for a two-yard touchdown. And in the third quarter, Warner completed passes of 16 and six yards before finding Boldin on a 10-yard touchdown pass, pulling Arizona to within one score, and making him the first quarterback to throw two touchdowns on the Redskins' defense since Marc Bulger threw for four in a 37-31 overtime win against Washington last Dec. 24.

On the next drive, Warner completed passes of 22 and 43 yards to get Arizona to the 10-yard line before fumbling on a blindside sack by defensive end Andre Carter. After Washington failed to capitalize and punted, Warner continued to torch a secondary that entered the game first in the NFC in pass defense, completing 4 of 5 passes for 69 yards before giving way to Rattay in the goal line package.

And though the Cardinals' comeback fell short, Warner's play provided a positive.

"I just wish we would've gotten closer for the kick," Warner said. "At some point, we have to figure out how to make whatever plays that are keeping us from winning. We need to get these games that [right now] we are losing."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company