NFL.com wire reports
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (Aug. 19, 2006) -- In the first minute of his NFL
career, Matt Leinart looked like a
Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback -- running a hurry-up offense that
impressed even Tom Brady.
For the rest of the night, there was little for Leinart and the Cardinals to be proud about.
"To go against this team on this field and get something in my first
drive, that was pretty cool," Leinart said after his debut, which
featured a quick 54-yard drive that netted Arizona its only points in a
30-3 loss to the New England Patriots.
But he spent the rest of the night resembling what he is -- a rookie
with almost no real practice experience.
Five days after reporting to the Cardinals' training camp, the 2004
Heisman winner entered Arizona's exhibition game with 1:09 left in the
first half. He promptly drove the Cardinals down the field to set up Neil Rackers' 48-yard field goal, scrambling for 29 yards on two runs
and completing 3 of 6 passes for 20 yards on the drive.
That was against a New England defense made up mostly of regulars.
The Patriots' starters should have stayed in the game. In the third
quarter, he was just 1 for 5 -- a 25-yard completion to tight end Eric Edwards -- and was sacked twice by New England backups. He
finished 4 of 11 for 49 yards.
In extended action, Tom Brady looked to be in midseason form.
It was a miserable night all around for Arizona, which last week opened
its new stadium with a 21-13 win over Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh. In
fact, Leinart's drive at the end of the half was the only positive.
"I don't think anyone could have expected any more," said Kurt Warner, Arizona's starter, who two years ago helped break in Eli
Manning with the New York Giants. "I thought he did a great job in the
two-minute drill. He handled the situation well."
For New England, it was a workmanlike effort. Brady played most of the
first half and completed 15 of 20 passes for 149 yards as the Patriots
marched up and down the field but usually stalled before reaching the
Rookie Stephen Gostkowski, competing
with Martin Gramatica to become the
replacement for Adam Vinatieri, kicked three field goals for the
Patriots (1-1). Matt Cassel, Leinart's
backup at Southern Cal, threw two TD passes -- a 9-yarder to Heath Evans in the third quarter and a 5-yarder to Rich Musinski in the fourth quarter -- as both sides inserted subs
That made Leinart, who signed a six-year deal that could be worth $51
million, the major part of the show. He was the NFL's last draft choice
At first, he made it look as though his drop to 10th overall in the
draft was a mistake -- at one point he was considered the top rookie
coming out or at least one of the top three.
Because the Patriots had the ball on three long first-half scoring
drives, Leinart didn't enter until 1:09 was left in the half.
His first NFL play was a pass in the right flat to wide-open running
back J.J. Arrington that picked up 11
yards. His longest play was a 16-yard scramble up the middle that might
have gained more had he not slid down at his 45. His second longest was
a 13-yard run to the New England 37.
"I'm not a runner, but they were laying back and the middle was open,"
But in the second half, Leinart looked like a raw rookie and the
Cardinals reverted to their old selves -- a franchise that has made the
playoffs only once in 19 seasons in the desert. On one sack, Leinart
fumbled but teammate Marcel Shipp
recovered. As the game went on, he looked more and more unsure.
Leinart has a fan in Brady.
"I thought he did a great job," the two-time Super Bowl MVP said of the
rookie. "He's a big strong kid. What impressed me was that he had such
excellent scrambling ability. I remember when I was a rookie. There's so
much to learn and he's coming in with just four days practice, which
makes it doubly tough.'
Cassel, by contrast, got better as the Cardinals put in more subs. When
Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked about Leinart, he replied: "I
liked the way our quarterback from USC played."
A seventh-round draft pick a year ago, Cassel finished 14 of 20 for 192
yards and those two touchdowns, far better than Leinart, who beat him
out for the starting job at Southern Cal after Carson Palmer was the No.
1 pick by Cincinnati in the 2001 draft. "I was happy for him," said
Leinart. "We're good friends and we talked a couple of times last week.
He showed he can be an NFL player."
For that 1:09, so did Leinart.