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29th January 2010

Warner announces NFL retirement

• Quarterback played in three Super Bowls
• 38-year-old led Cardinals to last year’s final

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner announced his retirement from the NFL today after a dozen years in a league that at first rejected him, then revered him as he came from nowhere to lead the lowly St Louis Rams to two Super Bowls, winning the first of them.

Written off as a has-been, he rose again to lead the long-suffering Arizona Cardinals to the Super Bowl a year ago. “I’m excited about what’s next,” said the 38-year-old Warner. “Before I was always excited about next season.”

Warner walked away with a year left on a two-year, $23m contract, knowing he still had the skills to play at the highest level. He had one of the greatest playoff performances ever in Arizona’s 51-45 overtime victory over Green Bay earlier this month, but sustained a brutal hit in the Cardinals’ 45-14 loss at New Orleans six days later.

Warner leaves the game with a legacy that could land him in the Hall of Fame even though he didn’t start his first game until he was 28.

In 124 regular-season games, Warner completed 65.5% of his passes for 32,344 yards and 208 touchdowns. He and Fran Tarkenton are the only NFL quarterbacks to throw for 100 touchdowns and 14,000 yards for two teams.

He has the top three passing performances in Super Bowl history. His 1,156 yards passing in the 2008 playoffs broke the NFL record of 1,063 he set with St Louis in 1999.

Warner enjoyed a remarkable career in the game. He played for three seasons in the Arena Football League and one in NFL Europe, mixed in with a stint of stocking grocery shelves.

Warner made the Rams as a backup in 1998, then was thrust into the starting role in 1999 when Trent Green was injured. What followed was a masterful and wholly unexpected season, when he led the Rams to a 13-3 regular-season record, then a Super Bowl triumph over Tennessee. He was named the league and Super Bowl MVP.

St Louis lost in the first round of the playoffs the following season, but Warner led them to the Super Bowl again in 2001, where the team nicknamed “The Greatest Show on Turf” lost narrowly to New England. The season earned him a second NFL MVP award.

But within two years he was let go by the Rams, plagued by injuries. He signed with the New York Giants and was replaced midseason, then landed with Arizona and couldn’t secure a starting spot for two years until 2007. The next year he led the Cardinals all the way to the Super Bowl, where he threw for 377 yards in a narrow loss to Pittsburgh.

Off the field, Warner has been just as impressive. He and his wife operate the First Things First charitable foundation. Last year, he was named the NFL’s Man of the Year for his off-field and onfield accomplishments.


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