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Warner eulogies a bit premature

Giants QB Kurt Warner has been a pleasant surprise for New York.
Giants QB Kurt Warner has been a pleasant surprise for New York.
Bill Kostroun, Associated Press

Kurt Warner didn't die, but to listen to people talk about him this summer one could easily conclude:

A. His career was over.

B. His life was over.

C. He joined Ricky Williams in Asia.

Listen to these eulogies.

"I can't say what happened. You go up and just as quick, you come down," Washington Redskins cornerback Shawn Springs said.

"You ask any Rams receiver, and when he was right, he put the ball exactly where they wanted," Philadelphia Eagles safety Brian Dawkins said.

Actually, Warner never left the NFL, or America, or mother Earth, not even St. Louis. Worse — he was classified as a clipboard carrying, flash-in-the-pan, one-hit wonder who couldn't stay healthy and refused to accept that his days as a premier quarterback were over.

After leading an existence for four years that Steven Spielberg would deem unrealistic, reality kicked Warner in the face for the past two seasons. But having been released by the Rams and signed by the New York Giants in the off-season, Warner is again proving to a league that never wanted him, or that thought he was an elongated fluke, that he can still play.

"It never crossed my mind from the standpoint 'Can you still play?' " Warner, 33, said when asked if he thought his career was over.

Despite trading for No. 1 overall pick Eli Manning in the 2004 draft, the Giants gave Warner opportunity he sought. He has the Giants, who face the Cowboys on Sunday, at 3-1, completing 67 percent of his passes for 908 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

Given Warner's rise from Northern Iowa "great" to Arena football "celebrity" to NFL scrub to NFL and Super Bowl MVP, this success fits his pattern.

From 1999 to 2001, Warner threw for 12,612 yards and 98 touchdowns.

In 2002 and 2003, he threw for 1,796 yards with 12 interceptions and four touchdowns.

"It would be hard not to believe (I was finished) after the last two years and what transpired off the field," Warner admitted.

On the field, he couldn't evade a wall. This season, he's been sacked 12 times, but he hasn't been knocked silly, stupid or into dumb throws as he had in the previous two seasons.

Two years ago he lost his starting job to Marc Bulger when he suffered a thumb injury in Week 4. At the beginning of the 2003 season, Rams coach Mike Martz named Warner his starter. That lasted all of one game. Warner was sacked six times and suffered a concussion in a season-opening loss against the Giants.

To this day, Warner swears the thumb was "an excuse" that he didn't buy. Others saw a different passer, not the one who calmly abused defenses as if on PlayStation2.

"I think what happened to him is what happens to a lot of players," Dawkins said. "When injuries start creeping up on you, you aren't the same player. Your confidence begins to waver. He wasn't the same quarterback."

Off the field, even the amiable Warner was put into a corner last year, as it became obvious St. Louis' love affair with him was over. His wife, Brenda, voluntarily called in to a local sports radio show to dispute Martz's reasons why her husband was on the bench. It was awkward and embarrassing.

Even though St. Louis was where it began, no amount of counseling could save the relationship. If he was ever going to prove he could play, he had to go.

"You know, it's so hard to talk about that situation. It was unique, it was different, and it was so unexpected," Warner said. "There are a lot of factors that were involved and stuff you don't care to talk about. It's over and it's done. It was a great run there, the greatest six years of my life, and I will remember St. Louis fondly for the orgaization, for what they did for me. But now it's on to New York."

And back from the dead.