Skip to main content

Leinart gets down to business

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) - For now, the photo shoots and commercials tapings are over for Matt Leinart. It's all football for a young quarterback settling in to a new offense in his second NFL season.

While others are anticipating a big jump for Leinart this year, the quarterback shrugs off such predictions.

"I know the expectations are high and stuff," he said Sunday after the Cardinals' first practice of training camp, "but I just control what I do. I'm not worried about what other people are going to say to me. I'm worried about helping this football team. That's my job."

The Cardinals went through an up-tempo workout in shoulder pads, dodging rain and avoiding nearby lightning in the first workout under new coach Ken Whisenhunt.

"It was a great day today," Leinart said.

Whisenhunt is installing an offense that will emphasize the run on a team that ranked last in rushing a year ago. That should mean fewer pass attempts, which is fine with Leinart.

"As a quarterback and as an offense, if you can't run the football, no matter if you have the best receivers or whatever, you're going to struggle to win," he said, "because the defenses are too good."

Leinart seems to have caught on to the way Whisenhunt wants the game played.

"He looks a lot more comfortable now than when we first got here, and that's normal," the coach said. "There's some things we worked on with his drop, which is letting his shoulders be a little bit more square when he's set. He threw the ball very well today."

Leinart said he's already noted better cohesiveness on the offensive line under new assistant coach Russ Grimm.

The quarterback regularly runs wind sprints with the linemen. He gave his linemen a watch after last season, said Reggie Wells, who has shifted from right tackle to his more natural left guard position this season.

"From day one, from the jump, he was ready to go," Wells said. "He wasn't star-struck, obviously. He's the kind of quarterback that everybody wants to play for."

Sunday's practice featured some spectacular catches by Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, arguably the best pair of receivers in the league. Boldin forecasts a big season for his quarterback.

"I think he'll take a big step," Boldin said. "Guys get a lot more comfortable going in to their second year because they know what to expect."

Running back Edgerrin James has been a big supporter of Leinart.

"He's not somebody who acts like he's bigger than everybody else," James said. "I've been around someone who's probably going to be the greatest quarterback of all time, that's Payton Manning. He (Leinart) has some of those same characteristics. It's just a matter of having a system that he can get settled in."

Then-coach Dennis Green benched Kurt Warner and made Leinart the starter five games in to last season. Leinart completed 57 percent of his passes for 2,547 yards and 11 touchdowns, but was intercepted 12 times before sitting out the final game with a sprained shoulder.

Warner has provided guidance to Leinart ever since.

"Some of the best situations I've seen," Whisenhunt said, "is when a young quarterback has a great older quarterback who gives him that kind of support."

Leinart went 37-2 as quarterback at USC, so losing was a new experience. He knows there is plenty of room for improvement, both for him and his team.

"Mentally, I want to be sharper at the line of scrimmage and sharpen my game-plan preparation," he said. "I'm ready. I feel good. It's going to be a great year."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.