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Leinart to start at QB for Cards, but . . .


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Only a few minutes after the 2007 ended, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt was asked a question that will be posed to him in a thousand different forms over the next few months.

Who is your starting quarterback?

The answer then, and now, is Matt Leinart, the 10th overall pick in the draft two years ago. But Leinart's hold on the job is tenuous. That was evident in the team's voluntary practice last Thursday, when backup Kurt Warner took most of the snaps with the first-team offense while Leinart guided the second unit.

That was a change from the first five voluntary practices.

Whisenhunt downplayed the move, saying that Leinart remains the starter. But to think that a message was not being sent would be naive.

Leinart, by all accounts, has worked diligently this off-season. He's regularly attended training sessions with strength and conditioning coach John Lott and spent time watching video with quarterbacks coach Jeff Rutledge and offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

The coaches have no problem with Leinart's work habits. So why was he working with the backups?

It might be that coaches just want to give Warner some time with the starters. Whisenhunt wasn't available for extended interviews last Thursday, so he didn't comment at length about the subject.

My guess is that the move was designed to convey the following message to Leinart:

Yes, you are the starter, but it's a job that could be taken away from you. Here's a little reminder that the guy behind you, the one who threw 27 touchdown passes last year, is pretty good. And you must play well through the summer to hang on to your job.

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