ST. LOUIS — Last year when Kurt Warner was injured, the St. Louis Rams' quarterback job fell to unknown Marc Bulger.
Now, the Rams know they'll be in fine shape when Bulger starts Sunday against San Francisco in their home opener.
"It's always better the second time around because everybody's got more confidence," defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson said. "He has more confidence, we have more confidence as teammates and the coaching staff has more confidence."
"He's a gunslinger; we've got two gunslingers."
Bulger was a sixth-round pick of the Saints in 2000 and also spent time on the Rams' practice squad and as the team's third-stringer. He emerged last year, going 6-1 as the starter while Warner was 0-6 while struggling through a miserable year that included a broken pinky and broken hand.
Bulger's 1,496 yards passing in the first five starts is the best in NFL history, and he finished with 14 touchdown passes and six interceptions.
"I think it's unusual for any team to have two quality quarterbacks," coach Mike Martz said. "He's experienced, he's been there before and he's won."
Warner's concussion in the opening 23-13 loss to the Giants, his third since 1995 when he was playing in the Arena League, opened the door for Bulger again. Unlike last year, when Martz streamlined the playbook, he's ready for everything.
"I was confident last year, but I don't know who else was confident in me," Bulger said. "I think this year my teammates know I can go in there and win."
He can sense that air of confidence in his teammates, too.
Bulger is starting even though Warner feels fine. The two-time MVP sustained what team doctors called a "mild to moderate" concussion in the first quarter last week but said he felt fine in the second half.
Against his wishes, Warner was hospitalized overnight in New York on Sunday. He's worked out each day since returning to St. Louis on Monday, and returned to practice in a reduced role as the second-stringer on Wednesday.
"Of course I want to play, no question about it," Warner said. "But it's not my decision to make."
Warner likely will be the No. 2 quarterback on Sunday ahead of Scott Covington, signed only Monday after the Rams released rookie Kirk Farmer. Martz said Warner will see a little more action Thursday, and a little more on Friday before the team determines whether he can be a backup.
The Rams have reason to be leery of Warner's positive statements, given that he played one game with a broken hand last year.
"He doesn't have 'doctor' in front of his name, so we'll go on what the doctor says," Martz said. "He's still relegated to a need-only basis, and that's how we'll approach it."
Warner isn't worried about lingering damage, although he still has some light sensitivity from the 2000 concussion. He said doctors have told him he may have that condition the rest of his life.
This week, the headaches were gone by Monday, and that's all that concerns him.
"If it was something that continued week in and week out and symptoms that persisted over a long period of time, that's one thing," Warner said. "But I think the term concussion gets thrown around pretty flippantly."
"I really have no reservations and no worries."