Friday, January 29, 2010
Kurt Warner retires after 12 seasons
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Kurt Warner has called an end to one of the great storybook careers in NFL history.
The 38-year-old quarterback announced his retirement from the game on Friday after a dozen years in a league that at first rejected him, then revered him as he came from nowhere to lead the lowly St. Louis Rams to two Super Bowls, winning the first of them.
"Not much on the drama part of it, as most of you know," Warner said to begin a news conference at the Cardinals' training facility.
Warner said he'd been leaning toward retirement for the last half of this season.
"Obviously, it's been 12 unbelievable years, some of the best years of my life," a composed Warner said. "But I want everybody to know that I'm just as excited about the next 12, that I'm excited about what lies in front of me. I'm excited about spending more time with my family, and seeing what God's going to do next."
Written off as a has-been, he rose again to lead the long-suffering Arizona Cardinals to the Super Bowl a year ago.
Warner walked away with a year left on a two-year, $23 million contract, knowing he still had the skills to play at the highest level.
He had one of the greatest postseason performances ever in Arizona's 51-45 overtime wild card victory over Green Bay on Jan. 10, but sustained a brutal hit in the Cardinals' 45-14 divisional round loss at New Orleans six days later.
"He has had a dominant career. He's a good person," Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said. "He's got to do what's best for his family. He played long enough. He took us to the Super Bowl last year. We had a great season this year. It's a good thing. If you're going to go out, go out on top."
Warner leaves the game with a legacy that could land him in the Hall of Fame even though he didn't start his first game until he was 28.
In a comparison with the 14 quarterbacks to make the Hall of Fame in the last 25 years, Warner has a better career completion percentage, yards per pass attempt and yards per game. Only Dan Marino had more career 300-yard passing games.
The Warner file
• Born June 22, 1971
• Raised in Burlington, Iowa
• Attended Northern Iowa University
• Originally signed by the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent on April 28, 1994 but was released on Aug. 17, 1994
• Played in Arena Football League with Iowa Barnstormers (1995-97)
• Signed with St. Louis Rams on Dec. 26, 1997 as a free agent
• Played for Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe during 1998 season
• Played six seasons with Rams (1998-2003)
• Signed with New York Giants on June 3, 2004 as an unrestricted free agent
• Signed a 1-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals on March 6, 2005
• Signed a 3-year contract with Arizona on Feb. 14, 2006
• Signed a 2-year contract with Arizona on March 4, 2009
• Four-time Pro Bowl selection (1999, 2000, 2001, 2008)
• Owns Arizona Cardinals regular season records for attempts, completions, completion percentage, passer rating, TD passes and consecutive games with a TD pass
• Two-time NFL MVP (1999 and 2001)
• Super Bowl XXXIV MVP
• Second QB in NFL history to start a Super Bowl for two different teams
• Career passer rating of 93.7 ranks 3rd in NFL history behind only Steve Young (96.8) and Peyton Manning (94.7)
• Became the fastest player in NFL history to reach 10,000 passing yards (36th career game)
• 2008 NFL Man of the Year award winner
In 124 regular-season games, Warner completed 65.5 percent of his passes for 32,344 yards and 208 touchdowns. He and Fran Tarkenton are the only NFL quarterbacks to throw for 100 touchdowns and 14,000 yards for two teams.
Warner, who grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and played collegiately at Northern Iowa, ranks among the career leaders in a variety of passing statistics.
He was also the fastest player in NFL history to 10,000 yards passing and tied Marino as fastest to reach 30,000.
He has the top three passing performances in Super Bowl history. His 1,156 yards passing in the 2008 playoffs broke the NFL record of 1,063 he set with St. Louis in 1999.
Warner's rise from obscurity seems the stuff of sports fiction.
He played three seasons in the Arena Football League and one in NFL Europe, mixed in with a sting stocking grocery shelves back in Iowa.
Warner made the Rams as a backup in 1998, then was thrust into the starting role in 1999 when Trent Green was injured.
What followed was a masterful and wholly unexpected season, when he led the Rams to a 13-3 regular-season record, then a Super Bowl triumph over Tennessee. He was named the league and Super Bowl MVP.
St. Louis was upset in the first round of the playoffs the following season, but Warner had them back in the big game in 2001, where "The Greatest Show on Turf" lost a squeaker to New England. The season earned him a second NFL MVP award.
But after an injury-plagued 2002 season, he was sacked six times and suffered a concussion in a 2003 season-opening loss to the New York Giants. He never started for St. Louis again.
He signed a free agent contract with the Giants for 2004, but was replaced by rookie Eli Manning after nine games. Warner came to the Cardinals in 2005 and was an off-and-on starter before replacing the injured Matt Leinart part way through the 2007 season.
Warner had to beat out Leinart the following spring, then led the Cardinals to the NFC West crown and playoff victories over Atlanta, Carolina and Philadelphia before the narrow loss to Pittsburgh in last year's Super Bowl, where he threw for 377 yards.
Off the field, Warner has been just as impressive.
He and his wife operate the First Things First Christian charitable foundation. Last year, he was named the NFL's Man of the Year for his off-field and onfield accomplishments.
"We all learned great lessons from Kurt's humility, dignity and grace. We will forever be thankful for the success he brought us and the unparalleled generosity he has shown the St. Louis community and beyond," Rams owner Chip Rosenbloom said in a statement.
Warner's departure leaves Leinart the presumed replacement. The former Heisman Trophy winner has started 17 games for Arizona but only one in the last two years.