Thu, Jun 03, 2004 - Page 19 News List

St. Louis releases Kurt Warner as his stock slowly sinks

AP , ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI

Two-time NFL MVP Kurt Warner, who led the St. Louis Rams to two Super Bowls, was released Tuesday.

Warner has not started and won a regular-season game since 2001, going 0-6 in 2002 and losing one game last season.

Mark Bartelstein, Warner's agent, said that Jay Zygmunt, the Rams' president of football operations, told him that the team had filed the necessary papers with the NFL office.

"I think there's a lot of mixed emotions," Bartelstein said. "He's had so much success and such a great relationship with everyone in St. Louis.

"It's an unbelievable chapter in his life and an unbelievable chapter in the NFL. To leave that, I think, is hard, but he's in the prime of his career."

Marc Bulger is now team's No. 1 quarterback. Bulger took over as the starter for good after Warner fumbled six times last year's season opener.

Bulger, who is 18-4 as the Rams regular-season starter, signed a four-year, US$19.1 million contract in April as the first major sign that Warner would not be back. The team also signed backup Chris Chandler to a free-agent deal, and excused Warner from a three-day minicamp last month, all of which made Tuesday's news less than a blockbuster event.

Bartelstein said four or five teams remained in the running for Warner's services, although most signs point to him signing with the New York Giants. He expected Warner, likely the biggest name to enter the second phase of free agency, would sign by the end of the week.

"Teams are calling all the time," Bartelstein said. "Kurt and I kind of have a preference, where we think is the best fit, and we're going to see if we can get that worked out.

"If we can, great, and if not, there's other choices."

By signing less than two months from the start of training camp, Warner is unlikely to get any guarantees of playing time. From that standpoint, the Giants might be the best fit right now.

"In June you're never going to find a place where someone says `Our quarterback situation is wide open,'" Bartelstein said. "I also know if Kurt goes and plays the way he's capable of playing, and he helps the team win and win big it doesn't really matter who's waiting in the wings.

"Kurt is going to be the guy."

Warner, who turns 33 on June 22, led the Rams to Super Bowls in 1999 and 2001, but has been plagued by injuries since.

By waiting until now to cut Warner, the Rams will spread their salary cap hit over two years instead of one. He'll cost them US$4.6 million this year and US$6.7 million in 2005. His contract called for a US$9.5 million salary this year.

Warner, undrafted out of Northern Iowa but an Arena League star, got the Rams' starting quarterback job in 1999 after Trent Green had a season-ending knee injury in the preseason. The Rams had endured a decade of losing seasons before Warner led the NFL with 41 touchdown passes, helping the team finish 13-3.

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