Sunday, June 02, 2002

QB Warner gives health thumbs up

NFL notebook

Enquirer news services

        ST. LOUIS — Kurt Warner is still wearing a brace on his thumb, but he said Saturday the injury that hindered him during his MVP season is history.

        The St. Louis Rams quarterback threw for 4,830 yards, second-most in NFL history, and completed 68.7 percent of his passes last season despite playing much of it with sprained ligaments.

    June 15 — Deadline for old clubs to withdraw original qualifying offer to unsigned restricted free agents and still retain exclusive negotiating rights by substituting tender of 110 percent of previous year's salary.

    July 22 — Signing period ends at 4 p.m. EDT for unrestricted free agents who received June 1 tender.

    Aug. 3 — American Bowl, Osaka, Japan: San Francisco vs. Washington

    Aug. 5 — Pro Football Hall of Fame game: Houston vs. N.Y. Giants

    Sept. 8-9 — 2002 season begins

    Dec. 30 — Regular season ends.


    Jan. 4-5 — Wild card playoffs

    Jan. 11-12 — Divisional playoffs

    Jan. 19 — Conference championships

    Jan. 26 — Super Bowl at San Diego

    Feb. 2 — Pro Bowl at Honolulu

        Saturday, he took all the repetitions with the first-stringers at the team's mandatory minicamp and had plenty of zip on the ball.

        “There's absolutely no pain whatsoever,” Warner said. “We've got to protect it in hopes that it doesn't get banged or hit again, but as far as throwing, there's absolutely no pain.”

        The ligaments on both the inside and outside of the thumb were injured. On the outside, he's still experiencing some problems and the knuckle is larger than usual, but it's mostly unrelated to throwing.

        The team doesn't seem worried about the injury, suffered when Warner's hand struck a helmet.

        To Warner, the injury was freakish.

        “You just go out and play,” he said. “I've played for how many years and hit my thumb twice. It is kind of an odd thing, so it's nothing I'm going to worry about.”

        The full squad hit the field Saturday morning for the first time since its 20-17 Super Bowl loss to the underdog New England Patriots in February. The Rams' minicamp last month was by invitation only, attended by rookies and selected veterans.

        That was by design because coach Mike Martz wanted to give the players he'll be counting on in September a chance to recharge their batteries.

        “It's a long season,” cornerback Aeneas Williams said. “Having veteran guys who know what it takes and are not going to rest on their laurels, I think you can trust to keep themselves in shape and be ready in June, like we are now.”

        Players also have the sting of the Super Bowl to deal with. They watched a video of the 2001 season Friday night.

        “There's a lot of little reminders to the fact we got that far and we had a great year, but we didn't complete what our mission was,” Warner said. “Guys are reminded of that all the time, and every time you're reminded, it comes back very quickly, it comes back very easily.”

        Martz expected a hungry bunch, and that's what he got.

        “There's a certain determination, a certain seriousness about them that would make you think this going to be a special year,” Martz said. “There's no question we're ready to go. We did a lot more things right than normally you do on a first practice of minicamp.”


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