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The NFL
Peter King
June 18, 2001
Clear SailingA concussion finally behind him, the Rams' Kurt Warner wants to get back to business
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June 18, 2001

The Nfl

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Clear Sailing
A concussion finally behind him, the Rams' Kurt Warner wants to get back to business

Last Friday morning, as a bright sun burned the dew off the Fox Run Golf Club in Eureka, Mo., Rams quarterback Kurt Warner prepared to tee off in a celebrity golf tournament—without wearing sunglasses. That was news. Good news.

Until April, when his sensitivity to bright light finally disappeared, Warner had suffered from the effects of postconcussion syndrome, stemming from a hit in St Louis's Dec. 24 regular-season finale, against the Saints. However, unlike Steve Young and Troy Aikman, quarterbacks who retired in part because each had endured a series of concussions, Warner had suffered only this one concussion in five years. (His only other was the result of a hit in an Arena League game.) "Three or 3� months go by, and you're thinking. This should be over by now," Warner says of his latest concussion. "But now I feel no effect. I'm not going to worry about one concussion."

The Rams will play this year without the security blanket they had in backup Trent Green, who was traded to the Chiefs in April. Warner's backups are Joe Germaine, who in his two seasons has thrown 16 passes, and 33-year-old journeyman Paul Justin, who was active for only five games last year. Still, the Rams gambled that a young defensive tackle—Damione Lewis from Miami, whom they took with the No. 12 pick acquired from K.C.—would be more valuable than a backup with Green's experience. "I'll miss Trent," says Warner, who sat out five games last year with a broken pinkie. "He was a good sounding board for me, but it was a good deal for him and good for us."

Warner's margin of touchdowns to interceptions, a startling plus 28 in his MVP season of 1999, dipped to plus 3 last year, and he is determined to overcome defenses that played him smarter and pressured him more in 2000 than they did the previous year. He hopes to succeed with a short and intermediate passing game that will be improved by having running back Marshall Faulk and tight end Ernie Conwell at full strength. (Knee injuries hampered both last year.)

Over the last two years Warner has completed 66.2% of his passes. By comparison Joe Montana, in his most accurate back-to-back seasons, completed 65.3% of his throws. Healthy, Warner could develop into an alltime great too. That's why Rams fans were happy that he was playing golf with a clear head last week.

Shanahan's New Recipe
Broncos Mix Things Up

Any prosperous executive will tell you that one key to success is adapting to change. Maybe that's why the Broncos have seldom fallen out of contention under coach Mike Shanahan, who has used free agency and the salary cap to his benefit since taking over in 1995. The NFL doesn't chart such things, but Denver's signing of 27 free agents this off-season must be a record.

"Every year is so full of change," Shanahan says. "I enjoy trying to put a competitive roster together. This year, compared to the past several, there's a buyer's market. For a few years salaries went crazy, and now some teams can't spend in free agency because they were so far over the cap. We've been able to get quality at a discount."

Counted among the Broncos' signings are four unrestricted free agents who were on their roster last year. Denver has also re-upped with four of its restricted free agents, including quarterback Brian Griese. After winning the NFL passing-efficiency title last season, Griese got a six-year, $39.6 million contract. For a backup Denver brought in Steve Beuerlein, who over the past two years, with the Panthers, threw for more yards than either Brett Favre or Drew Bledsoe did. Shanahan got Beuerlein for a Wal-Mart price of $4 million over four years.

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