TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -Matt Leinart says his tough and ultimately unsuccessful effort to win back the starting quarterback job for the Arizona Cardinals made him a better player.
Now he just has to wait for a chance to prove it.
``It was tough to take because we're all competitors and we all want to play,'' Leinart said after practice Monday. ``But it did push me. It did make me a better quarterback and I'm going to keep on getting better. I know my opportunity will come sooner or later.''
Coach Ken Whisenhunt announced Saturday that 37-year-old Kurt Warner would be the starter when the Cardinals open their season Sunday at San Francisco. Warner said he and Leinart talked about the situation before practice Monday and expressed support for one another.
``One thing I have to believe and hopefully Matt believes is that I'm not just a has-been quarterback that can't play,'' Warner said. ``I want him to believe that I'm one of the better quarterbacks in this league and that he played very well this year.''
Leinart, in his third pro season after a spectacular college career at USC, alluded to the perception by some around the league that he could be a first-round NFL bust.
``I know I'm criticized for a lot of stuff that I do, every single day, every snap, but this preseason got me better. It got me mentally tougher,'' he said. ``Like I said, I'm young. I've had 16 starts in my career. A lot of people are saying all these things. I'm still very young in this league you know.''
Leinart started the first five games last year before a broken collarbone sidelined him for the rest of the season. Warner came on and threw for 3,417 yards and 27 touchdowns, even though most of the time he played with a brace on his left elbow because of a torn ligament.
Whisenhunt said the day after last season ended that Leinart was the No. 1 quarterback, but that changed through training camp and the preseason.
Leinart had an awful game at Oakland, but bounced back with a strong performance against Denver in the preseason finale last week.
Whisenhunt repeated that Leinart still is the quarterback of the future.
``He's a good football player,'' the coach said. ``He's made great progress and when it's his turn to play, I'm confident he will do well, just like he did the other night after having a bad outing at Oakland.''
Leinart expressed support for Warner.
``Our kind of motto this year for the team is we do this together,'' he said. ``It's not about any individual. I know a lot of people have made this whole thing a big controversy and a battle but we're all a team and we want to win.''
The fact that he and Leinart have a good relationship helps, Warner said.
``I think you have to keep it positive,'' Warner said, ``because there are things like this that can be detrimental to a football team. You've seen it around this league numerous times.''
At least Leinart ended the preseason on a positive note against Denver.
``I felt really good about playing in that last game at home,'' he said. ``Obviously I'm not starting but it still built my confidence, and I feel ready to go at any point.''
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