INDIANAPOLIS (Feb. 22, 2003) -- St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz didn't need a competition to determine his starting quarterback for 2003. All he needed was Kurt Warner's medical chart.
Martz said at the NFL's annual scouting combine that Warner will start ahead of Marc Bulger next season.
"It was such a highly visible situation, and it involved such a tremendous player, and it was a good story," Martz said. "But obviously, there wasn't much of a decision."
Martz's announcement eliminates what could have turned into a training-camp battle between Warner, a two-time MVP, and Bulger, who was impressive while replacing the injured Warner last season. Warner went 0-6 as the Rams' starter.
Adding to the intrigue, Warner -- who is due a roster bonus this offseason -- was coming off two injuries to his throwing hand, and the team also suspected he might have rotator cuff damage.
Bulger, meanwhile, was 6-1 as the starter last season and had one of the league's top quarterback ratings.
Although Martz indicated the choice was a no-brainer, he did leave himself a small escape clause.
"If Kurt fails to perform at the level he expects -- or we expect -- over a period of time, then we'll have to make a change," he said. "But I don't really think that will happen."
There had been speculation that because of Warner's age (31) and his potential impact on the Rams' salary cap, coupled with Bulger's rising status, that the team might trade one of the quarterbacks.
Martz said the Rams are negotiating with Warner to lessen his impact on the cap, although he insisted that St. Louis was not asking Warner to accept a pay cut. The coach also ruled out a trade.
"I couldn't do that," Martz said. "They're like your own kids. How do you give away your kids?"
Martz also said the Rams would keep running backs Lamar Gordon and Trung Canidate , the backups to Marshall Faulk , another former league MVP.
"We want them to compete for that job when Marshall decides he's done," Martz said.
Faulk just completed his 10th year in the league. Martz said he didn't know when Faulk might retire, but he acknowledged that Faulk has adopted a more stringent offseason workout program that could extend his career.
Martz added that the Rams are trying to re-sign tight end Ernie Conwell, and as many of their 16 free agents as they can before they become eligible for free agency on March 1. The Rams also are waiting for cornerback Aeneas Williams to decide whether he will retire.
I think Bulger is the future Qb, but Warner is a two-time MVP. The real question will be whether Warner's hand truly is healthy. It wasn't at any point during this year and we all saw the result. If his hand is healthy, then he should be a force.