The New York Giants are taking some of the pressure off Eli Manning, signing Kurt Warner to be their caretaker quarterback until the top pick in the draft is ready.
While the two-time MVP got a two-year contract late Wednesday that will pay him a minimum of $3.5 million this year, there is no guarantee Warner will be with the Giants for more than a season.
When Manning is ready to go, he will be the Giants' quarterback.
Until then, the job seemingly belongs to Warner, the soon-to-be 33-year-old who led the St. Louis Rams to Super Bowl appearances after the 1999 and 2001 seasons. Injuries and the emergence of Marc Bulger earned him a pink slip Tuesday.
"I am looking to come in and to play and to re-establish myself," Warner said Thursday, hours after his first practice. "I would love this to be where I finish my career."
Warner has incentives that can push his salary to $8 million this season. However, the second year of his contract is voidable, and his tenure may well be determined by Manning's progress in his rookie season.
"I don't want to keep moving and picking up my family," Warner added. "I want to continue to have success. I would love it to be here in New York and I will do whatever in my time here to be successful. We'll just see what happens."
"Obviously Manning is there, but this is New York and if Kurt wins, they are not going to want him to leave," said Mark Bartelstein, Warner's agent.
The signing takes a ton of pressure off Manning.
The son of Archie Manning and the brother of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning became the Giants' starting quarterback when Kerry Collins refused to take a pay cut and was released less than a week after New York got the No. 1 pick in a draft-day trade with San Diego.
Manning, who has known for weeks the Giants planned to sign a veteran, still plans on competing for the starting job.
"I don't know if this takes the pressure off," Manning said. "I don't know if anything has changed in my view. I am still going to practice just as hard as ever. I want to be ready."
Manning and Warner spoke for a few minutes Thursday. Warner plans to tutor Manning, just as he did with Bulger in St. Louis.
"To teach a guy the little things and have him become a better quarterback was fun for me, as frustrating as it was not playing," Warner said. "But I look forward to helping any way I can."
Warner also is looking forward to playing again. He suffered a concussion in a season-opening loss to the Giants last season and didn't start for the rest of the year. He missed half the previous season with injuries and lost his last eight starts, starting with the 2002 Super Bowl.
Warner said the release was a disappointing end to a career that saw the Rams win one Super Bowl and lose another on the final play of the game.
"We had so much success, and things were so great that you would like to ride off into the sunset and finish up that way," Warner said. "That unfortunately didn't work out that way, but more importantly I am excited about this new opportunity because I have a lot more to play."
The Giants are something of a question mark coming into the season.
They posted a 4-12 record last season, a year that started with Super Bowl aspirations and ended with Jim Fassel being fired and Tom Coughlin hired to replace him.
Warner thinks the Giants have a shot at winning a title this season, noting the key players are in place with Ike Hilliard and Amani Toomer at wide receiver, Jeremy Shockey at tight end and Tiki Barber at running back.
While the offensive line is a big question mark, Warner said his ability to read defenses should allow him to get rid of the ball quickly.
"We'll never be a team that settles for the doldrums and is not going to try to win," Barber said. "Kurt is a Super Bowl veteran and a two-time league MVP, adding him is a big boost for our team, especially our offense."
Coughlin said that Warner, who was given the No. 13 jersey he wore in St. Louis, showed no signs of being bothered by thumb and pinkie injuries that have plagued him in recent years.
"He looked like Kurt Warner to me," Coughlin said.
TESTAVERDE, PARCELLS REUNITE: Vinny Testaverde wants another chance at age 40 to be a starting quarterback. His former coach is giving it to him. Testaverde and Bill Parcells were reunited Thursday when the quarterback signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Dallas Cowboys.
"The fire still burns within for me to be out on the field still playing. All I want is an opportunity," Testaverde said. "The opportunity to compete to be a starter excites me. I didn't have that opportunity in New York."
The Jets released Testaverde this week, ending a six-year run for his hometown team in an expected salary-cap move. His first two seasons there were with Parcells. In the last two, he was Chad Pennington's backup, although he started seven games last season when Pennington was out with a hand injury.
Testaverde's agent, Mike Azzarelli, said the quarterback could make as much as $5 million this season, based on playing time and performance.
Testaverde will get the chance to compete for the starting job. But the Cowboys didn't just give it to him. Parcells has said Quincy Carter, the starter for most of the past three seasons and all 16 games last year, will go into training camp as the No. 1 quarterback. But the coach has always said that the best player will start.
"We basically have an incumbent in Quincy, but we want to be better than we've been at quarterback, and competition creates that," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "Vinny came here to play. He came here to compete as a starter and he knows Bill well. He's knows that he's going to be given that kind of opportunity."
STEWART PRACTICES WITH RAVENS: Kordell Stewart has won eight of the nine games he has started against the Baltimore Ravens and is 5-0 in Baltimore. Now he's on the other side.
Stewart signed a one-year deal for the $760,000 veteran minimum and took to the practice field with the team he and his former Pittsburgh Steeler teammates have battled for a division title for a decade. The 6-foot-1, 218-pounder will wear his familiar jersey number 10 for the Ravens, who host Pittsburgh in their home opener in Week Two on Sept. 19.
"It's a little strange," Stewart said of his signing by Baltimore after one season in Chicago.
"For the first 20 minutes, it was strange. But as time goes on, you just say it's football with a different uniform. I always liked the uniform, but I hated it when I played against them."