Transcripts of conference calls with the Cardinals' Kurt Warner and Ken Whisenhunt on Thursday afternoon:
ARIZONA QB KURT WARNER
On WRs Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald being one of the best tandems in the NFL…
I would definitely say that they're in the mix. They're young, dynamic receivers. They both have great skill sets and can do some things that are extremely special, probably better than anybody that I've been with. It's fun and it's fun to be a part of that. It's fun to watch them grow.
They are still young guys, still learning and coming into their own. They still have potential to get better. That's the fun part. You've already seen what they've been able to accomplish in the short time in their careers. It's fun to be here and watch them develop and try to help them develop and to receive some of the rewards from playing with two great receivers.
On the similarities and differences between Boldin and Fitzgerald…
The similarities between the two, and what stands out when you watch them on an every-down basis, is their size and their strength to the football. They're both big, strong receivers. They have strong hands and the ability to catch balls in traffic. That's the thing that separates them because they are so big and good with the football and move so well.
The differences or the things that separate them from the pack and probably from each other, Anquan is a phenomenal player with the ball in his hands. I've never been around a guy at that position that is so good with the ball in his hands. He's good at running you over and punishing you. He's quick enough and elusive enough to make you miss. He scares DBs when he gets the ball in his hands because he's that special.
Larry is a big guy that has the ability to go get the football. He adjusts his body. His body control is amazing. I can put balls in places where only he can get them. To watch him maneuver his body and make those kinds of catches is phenomenal. I've never been around a guy in person that I've seen who's able to do that with his body and have that good of ball skills when the ball's in the air as he does.
On anything he has done to regain the form he had four or five years ago…
No, I feel like I'm the same guy. Now I'm in a position to have that kind of success. You can look back with my time with the Cardinals. My first year, we led the league in passing. We were the No. 1 passing team in the league. I can still play and throw the football. The dynamics were different as far as the pieces around me. The ability to win was different.
These last couple of years, we have pieces in place offensively, defensively, guys that are working together. I've been around some of the players a little bit longer. It's the second year in our system, but it's a system that fits me very well. Having the ability to be aggressive and attack is something I think brings out the best in me.
I don't think I ever changed. I just was caught in situations where it wasn't conducive to me playing and being aggressive and attacking and being that pass-first type of offense. Everybody says that they think something disappeared from the time that I won my last MVP to last year. Nothing has changed. I never forgot how to play football. There wasn't a day that I couldn't throw the football.
It was more of being in the right situation. I didn't find that again from a full-team context until last year when we started winning football games. I had an opportunity to play football the way I think I play football with the pieces around me to bring out some of the gifts that I have. It's fun. It's been fun to get back in that place, especially at this point in my career before I stop playing. It's nice to be back in that place.
On if it's different to play against a quarterback who is older than him…
It doesn't happen too often anymore [laughs]. I suppose a little bit, but it's funny. You don't even think about that stuff other than when people talk about how old you are, you probably shouldn't be playing anymore or you're too old to play. You don't think about that when you're out there. I don't feel any different. My body feels great. I feel like I'm playing at a high level. The age thing is just a number.
One of the benefits, when you are an older guy, is you're around a lot of young guys. When you're in the facility and you're around, you feel like one of those guys. When I'm hanging around my receivers or my fellow quarterbacks, I don't ever think of myself as the old guy. I just think that I'm one of the guys and I fit right in. It's not until someone points it out that you really think to yourself that you aren't necessarily in their situation. You're a lot older and have a different lifestyle. They make you feel a little bit younger.
On if he has any memories from when he went to training camp with the Green Bay Packers …
I don't remember a lot. I was a young kid that was overwhelmed with the situation and was nervous. I remember those guys. I remember how great a room we had, from Coach [Steve] Mariucci to all three of the quarterbacks, Brett [Favre] included. We just had some great individuals, some great people that have accomplished some great things at this level. It was a fun group. They made it easy for me to fit in, even though I wasn't there long.
As far as the football stuff, I don't really remember a whole bunch from that. I wasn't there very long. I didn't get very many opportunities. I do remember those guys and I stayed in touch with them over the years and have built friendships with all of them. That's the thing I took from that camp.
On LB Calvin Pace…
He is a hybrid. He's one of the guys that has the size and strength to play defensive end that can rush you and puts you in a difficult position playing linebacker because he can rush and you can get him on a back or tight end. He's explosive and able to get around those guys. He's also elusive enough and athletic enough that he can play the linebacker position and you don't lose anything.
You look around the league and a lot of teams try to go to 3-4 and they're trying to make a defensive end a linebacker. They're stiff and they can't move very well in pass coverage and you have to rush them more than anything. Then you have vice versa.
Calvin's one of those guys that's a great hybrid player that can do both things and do both things well. I've seen him with his hand on the ground in a 4-3 and playing defensive end. I've seen him cause havoc. Last year I saw him as a linebacker and he had the ability to change the course of the game, not just pass-rushing but playing the field as well. He's one of those special athletes that has the ability to do a lot of different things. That's why he creates so many different problems for an offense.
On how he keeps two elite receivers happy…
The first secret is throw to both of them a lot. I always try to do that. It's not about the quarterback. It's not about anything that I've done. It's about the quality of guys that I've played with. You look at Isaac [Bruce] and Torry [Holt], two guys that are phenomenal players and very unselfish. Their whole goal was "Let's win. I don't care how many balls I catch, I know I'm going to get my chances, but bottom line is I want to win. The way we have a chance to win is for both of us to be on the field, both of us catching balls and both of us pressuring the defense."
The same thing holds true here. These guys are genuinely excited when the other one catches a pass or touchdown. Like any receiver, they want to get the ball and make catches, but they want to win, too. They understand that the person on the other side of the field makes them better. They're unselfish in that regard.
It's fun playing with those guys because you never hear them complaining about not getting the ball too much or one guy's catching more balls than the other. They know that I'm going to do what the defense dictates me to do and I'm going to try to get the ball into both of their hands as much as I can. They're happy with that. They know that they're going to have the stretches where they get their catches. There may be a stretch where only one guy is doing well and getting catches. Either way it means our team is having success and that is the bottom line for those guys.
On how critical a win over the Jets is for the Cardinals…
It's big for us. We started out 2-0. We don't want to go home after this road trip 2-2. We don't want to be balanced out at this point. To go back 3-1 would have a huge upside for us. Anytime we can go on the road and beat a good football team, that does nothing but extend your confidence.
One of the things that we struggle with around here is winning on the road and being able to travel well and play the same kind of football on the road that we play at home. These are opportunities, as things go against us or when things get a little tougher, we understand that we're going to have to win these kinds of games if you want to be a playoff-caliber team. You have to go on the road, you have to beat good football teams and you have to go into hostile environments.
Until we can do that and prove to ourselves that we can do that, we're never going to be able to move up and become one of those elite teams or become one of those year-in-year-out playoff teams. That's why these trips are so important to us. This week is even more important just because of the way we started. We don't want to lose that momentum as we go back home next week.
On if the Cardinals look like a playoff team…
I believe we have the potential to be. I still believe we have work to do. A lot of it has to do with our mentality on the road, our ability to be able to focus through distractions and play good football on the road. You can't just come out to somebody's house that's a good football team and just step out there and expect everything to go in your favor. You have to be able to overcome things.
We saw signs of it in San Francisco. We didn't do quite as well last week in Washington. That's what's going to set this team over the top. It's too early to really tell if we've made enough strides in that direction that we're going to win enough games on the road that's going to help us get to that point. We have the potential. We have the talent. We made a lot of strides last year, but it's still yet to be seen if we've made enough strides to become that playoff team.
On coming back to play at the Meadowlands…
I don't know if it's really going to mean a whole bunch to me or going to be any big deal. I was there for a short period of time. I never got too ingrained in the culture there in New York. I enjoyed my year there and the opportunity there. It never became that big of a deal because it wasn't home for very long and I wasn't able to establish a whole bunch there. It's going to be like going to another away game and playing in another away stadium.
On if he remembers while at Green Bay refusing not to go in at practice because he felt he wasn't ready…
I've heard that story before and I don't remember that. I was a young kid. I don't remember a whole bunch from camp. I especially don't remember a whole bunch from the football side of it. I only got a few reps in camp. I think I only had 12 competitive reps in the four weeks I was there. I don't remember that. I don't know how it was recounted yesterday.
I'm sure it was one of those situations where I really didn't know what I was doing. I didn't really know the play they were asking me to go in and run. I just said, "Coach, I'm not comfortable going in and running that play. I'm not going to have any success. I don't know what I'm doing." I'm sure it was something like that. I don't remember it first-hand. I'm sure if [Favre] does, he was telling the story as accurately as he could. Whatever he said was probably as close to the truth or close to right on as he could possibly be.
On what season he was with the Green Bay Packers…
It would have been going into the '94 season. It was camp of '94.
On the Jets' young secondary…
I like them. They're aggressive. They do a good job in man coverage. I haven't really seen much of them and have not played them for a while. I don't really know a whole bunch about their defense, but I've been impressed watching them on film. I think they do a good job. They're in a position to make a lot of plays. I'm still learning about them. What I've seen initially on film, they look like they do a good job and they're going to be good for a while with them being so young and so talented at this stage. They're going to be a good group.
On if he is surprised by his level of efficiency through the first three games…
No, I'm not. I feel very good with where we are. I feel very good in the offense. One of the keys with most quarterbacks — I've even told my offensive coordinator — is that I believe I'm a very smart quarterback and I believe with my accuracy and what I bring to the table that I can play like that each and every week.
Where it gets harder is when you don't have as much time, when you have to make quicker decisions, you have to anticipate something maybe happening because a guy's getting ready to hit you and you have to take some chances. That's where, throughout my career, I've anticipated things. I've expected certain things, or due to pressure here or there I tried to anticipate something, and it didn't work out that way and it turns into an interception instead of a touchdown or instead of a completion.
The great thing that's happened in these first three games is that the offensive line has played great football. They block very well. They've given me opportunities to see the field, to attack the field and to make quality decisions. I'm not surprised by the efficiency at all. I'm trying to make the best decisions possible. The more time you get, the more efficient you can be.
You can look around the league. Tom Brady and his season last year, a lot of his success — not diminishing what he does because he's phenomenal — he had so much time to make decisions and get through his reads and get it to the open guy that he can be much more efficient. The Peyton Mannings. I've been fortunate to have that ability and have that time through the first three games. I haven't had to force things and make bad decisions.
ARIZONA HEAD COACH KEN WHISENHUNT
On QB Kurt Warner's efficiency…
He's more comfortable with our system. We're more comfortable with what his strengths are. It's a blending of the two. I have to give him credit. He's worked very hard on some of the things that we wanted him to do. That's ball security in the pocket, moving in the pocket a little bit. He's done a good job with that.
Last week, even though we didn't win, there were a couple of situations in the game where he got it to the back on a checkdown, where in the past he may have stayed in the pocket and held on to it and tried to make the throw down the field. He's done a very good job of adapting to what we were trying to accomplish.
On his decision to stay on the East Coast after playing Washington…
The week has gone smoothly so far. Anytime you move the team for a period of time, you're always worried about distractions and getting them out of the routine. At this point, our football team is doing such a good job of trying to stay focused. We had a good practice yesterday. The reason that we did it was to give ourselves the best chance, we felt, to play well in this game.
Last year we had three East Coast trips that it seemed like we started the games off slowly in all three of them. Part of it was adjusting to the flight across the country as well as the time change. This year, when we had two back to back, we thought it was an opportunity to actually stay here. We cut out, roughly, about 6,000 air miles and about 10 hours in an airplane, which you guys well know what kind of effect that can have on your body.
The biggest thing — and Kurt said this yesterday when someone asked him — is it gives us a better opportunity to be fresher Friday, Saturday and especially going into Sunday. That time when you're traveling and it's taking a toll on your body, you don't have to deal with that. That was the biggest reasoning behind doing it.
On Warner's career…
He's an ultracompetitive player and the reason he had success in the league when no one believed in him was because he believed in himself. I don't believe that ever wavered during the course of time. Some of it was getting into a situation where it was a good fit for him offensively. One of the things that our coaches have done is we've tried to tailor or adjust our offense or schemes to fit some of our players. We did that last year when Matt [Leinart] got hurt and Kurt was our quarterback. We got into a little bit of a rhythm as far as what he liked and what he felt comfortable with. It matched our system, so we developed that and continued with that process.
The reason that I would say he's been productive for us this year is because he is comfortable with our team, players, and he's comfortable with what he's being asked to do. The biggest thing is our line has done a much better job in the last year and a half with protecting him. There has been some stability with the offensive line and Russ Grimm has done a great job with that and that has certainly helped as well.
On some of his memories of playing and coaching for the Jets…
I have quite a few. I remember one that really sticks out. It was a Monday night game. We were playing at home. We ran a fake punt. Pat Chaffey went 80 yards for a touchdown. That's one of the ones that stands out.
I also remember getting fined. We were playing Buffalo on a Monday night game at home. I caught a pass. Bruce Smith at the time was a beast, and he got into a fight down the field with the offensive line because I think somebody cut him. I'm getting up. I'm [excited] about having caught the ball. I thought, "Great, I got a reception." A fight breaks out down the field. Not only did my reception get erased because there was a penalty because there was a fight down the field, but I also got fined for being in the area of a fight when all I did was catch the ball and I was on the field. It's one of those weird memories that sticks in your mind.
As a coach, I remember starting out 4-0. Some of the memories were the Monday Night Miracle. It's something that really sticks in my mind. We were down and out in that game and fought back and won it. It's one of the greatest things that I've ever been involved with.
On LB Calvin Pace…
We would have loved to have Calvin and we certainly were trying to get that done. We saw Calvin grow a lot in our defensive scheme last year and thought he was a good fit for what we were trying to get done. From what I've seen on tape, it certainly is continuing. He's playing very well for them. He's a good football player. He was a hard worker, very attentive and smart player. He was eager to try to do things the way that the coaches wanted him to do it. He had success with that.
It's always rewarding as a coach to see a player who maybe did not have the success in his first couple of years have that kind of success last year. It's kind of bittersweet in a way because we felt good about what he did for our team last year and that it's very difficult to lose him. That's the nature of this business. I'm happy for Calvin that he's continuing to play well.
On G Alan Faneca…
He's a great player. You don't go to those Pro Bowls the number of years he has if you're not a very good football player. The leadership that he brings to the team, the mindset that he brings, especially to the offensive line, was really critical to being a tough-minded football team, which is something that we established while we were in Pittsburgh.
The thing I remembered the most about Alan was his ability to make things work on the football field. A lot of time in games, things don't come up the way you want them to. It was always Alan who made the critical adjustment or made the play in space that you just said, "Guys can't do that." He's very special in that regard.
As many times as we asked him to pull or get out in front of a receiver or a back out in the open space, which is very difficult for most big guys, he always seemed to make the right decision, which was a big part of our success and doing things. I remember a guy who was not only a very good football player but a great teammate and leader. I'm sure he is. That's the way Alan is and I have great respect for him.
On what a road win would do for the Cardinals...
That's what we're working on. We're trying to become a better road team. When you go across the country and you have a couple of turnovers and you have a couple of mistakes, it makes it very difficult to win a game. That's been a little bit of my experience of what we've faced. We started slow and we haven't been the sharpest coming out of the gate. We're working hard in practice and in our meetings, trying to rectify that because in order to become a playoff team you have to win some games on the road.
That's what they did in Pittsburgh the year we won the Super Bowl. We won all those playoff games on the road. It's something that we realize that's important, but it's not something that you can just say, "We're going to be a better road team." You have to really work on it and pay attention to the details, especially when you're playing in a hostile environment and dealing with distractions when you travel.
There are a lot of things that go into it and we're really working hard as a team to get better at that. A win on the road would mean a lot to us. We had one early this season, the first game this season against San Francisco in the division, which was big for us. We didn't win last week, so we're hoping to try to continue to get better with that.
On QB Brett Favre…
I still see him as a dangerous player. He's a guy that throws the ball quickly. He makes good decisions with the ball even though he's willing to take chances. That's what's made him so good. He really keeps the whole field in play. He's not a guy that you can expect to work just one half of the field. He has such a good feel for the game and his ability to see things all over the field and to improvise, it's something that scares you to death as a defense because you have to stay on your toes.
He still has a very good arm. He's playing at a high level. I'm sure there's an adjustment period in learning the offense, but the one thing you can't take away from him is his ability to see things on the field and make plays. That's something that he has done consistently throughout his career.
On the Cardinals defense…
We work very hard on talking about finishing plays. It was evident in our first game when we created four turnovers: the hustle of 11 guys flying to the football. That's supposed to reinforce what we're trying to do. I'm very pleased with how we're playing as a group, as a unit.
We have some mistakes that we made in the last game. You're always looking to clean up. Our defensive group, we have more depth this year than we did last year. We've had competition at a number of positions, which raises the level of the intensity in practice. That's carried over to the games for us. I'm very pleased with the effort and the intensity that we're playing with.