By: Bob George/BosSports.net
August 19, 2006

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Maybe this is how you get Deion Branch back in camp.

Patriots/Cardinals
Close-Up
Where: Gillette Stadium
Foxborough, Mass.
When: Saturday 8/19/06
8:00 PM EDT
TV National:
TV Local:
NFL Network
WCVB-TV 5
DSS: DirecTV
Channel 212, 931
2006 Team
Records:
Patriots 11-7
Cardinals 5-11
Latest Line: Patriots by 3 1/2
Call him out, coach. Shame him. Make him feel like a heel as big as on a pair of boots worn by Twiggy 40 years ago. Make him understand that he is the one man standing between the Patriots and their fourth Super Bowl championship, and that every player in camp is totally and completely ashamed of him.

Look at what happened with Matt Leinart.

Dennis Green sounds off on his Monday press conference. To put mildly, Green more or less lost it. He had had enough of the legendary USC quarterback being the last first round pick to sign. Basically he told Leinart to sign the (censored) up and to get his (censored) into camp right (censored) now.

And it worked. That evening, Leinart agreed to terms. The next day, there he was in camp.

Thanks to Green and his new, dynamic approach to coaching, Patriot Nation will likely be treated to a unique quarterback duel Saturday night at Gillette Stadium. Leinart will in all likelihood face off against his backup at USC, Matt Cassel. Green said that Leinart would be force-fed the system, and he would try to get him out there for the game this weekend. Cassel would thus get the chance to try to show up the former head of his Trojan quarterback class.

Arizona comes to Foxborough for the first time in ten years, and with a little bit of a swagger not seen in this franchise since perhaps the Terry Metcalf era. Except for an unlikely playoff win in Dallas in 1998, the Cardinals have been as near a guarantee as a second rate outfit of schmucks as death and taxes are. But with Kurt Warner and now Leinart throwing passes to Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, and now with former Colt legend Edgerrin James in the backfield, the Cardinals may finally have something here. Throw in that gleaming new stadium of theirs out in the desert, and the days of Phoenix being the Siberia of pro football may be gone for a while.

Bill Bidwill, whose mother and brothers inherited the team from his father Charles upon his death in 1947, has been owner of the Cardinals since buying out his brother in 1972. Since then, he has presided over three decades of mediocre to poor teams in both St. Louis and the Phoenix area. He often times comes off as a cheapskate, charging exorbitantly high ticket prices but putting a cut-rate product on the field. He has often been mocked by football experts as being an inept owner, perhaps the worst in the league.

But lately, Bidwill has been coming off looking a bit better. This new stadium, in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale, is his crown jewel, one that will host Super Bowl XLII in 2008. The fact that Bidwill was able to get both the stadium and the Super Bowl raised many eyebrows, and won the owner a good amount of respect along the way. Now, his latest "coup"¯ is getting to pose with Leinart on Draft Day, Leinart himself being another crown jewel. Leinart is the star of the future for the Cardinals, who have not had anyone of star quality since perhaps Metcalf.

Willie McGinest complained recently to a San Diego newspaper that the Patriot system gets more credit than the players do, and maybe undeservedly so. Leinart will be soon showing his adoring fans in the Valley of the Sun if he indeed is the standard bearer of the franchise for years to come, or if he was good only because former Patriot head coach Pete Carroll's system at USC was the reason he did so well.

Despite Leinart's stunning career at USC, he may have a hard time living down his final game as a Trojan, the 41-38 loss to Vince Young's Texas Longhorns in this year's Rose Bowl. Leinart lost the much-ballyhooed matchup, and wound up getting drafted seven rungs below Young in the draft, and three rungs below where he perhaps should have gone (what were the Raiders thinking?).

Leinart is now finally a Cardinal, with a terrific veteran to learn from in Warner, two terrific wideouts to throw to, and a terrific running back behind him to keep defenses honest. As long as Russell Davis isn't all the Cardinals have at offensive line, the Cardinals look to put up lots of points in the Leinart era in Glendale, assuming the Warner era doesn't need to last longer than it has to.

Right now, the Cardinals have a quarterback glut. In addition to Warner and Leinart, the Cards have former Michigan starter Jon Navarre and former Patriot backup Rohan Davey. All four quarterbacks could play Saturday night, and Leinart will have plenty to study when he is on the sidelines.

Davey, of course, provides a sidebar of a completely different sort, if he gets significant playing time.

Warner and Leinart are guaranteed to stick. It is unlikely that Green will keep four quarterbacks. That means that Navarre and Davey are battling for the third quarterback job. For right now, given Leinart's long absence, it could be for the number two spot.

Davey will get a chance to stick it to his old team, and he can use this forum to help make up Green's mind. Navarre had a somewhat checkered career as Michigan quarterback, being more inconsistent than anything else. But Davey had a chance to at least move up to become the number two man behind Tom Brady, yet he never took full advantage despite some good work over in Europe. Davey needs to play well, but he needs to concentrate on making the Cardinals and not showing Bill Belichick that he made a big mistake in taking Cassel over him.

As for the Patriots, this game won't be of a great deal of significance. With Branch still out, Reche Caldwell will get another chance to show that he is more than a JAG (Just Another Guy). Cassel should get another long stint at quarterback, and having Leinart watching him should help. The Patriots signed linebacker Junior Seau on Friday, so Patriot Nation can see if this guy becomes the next Roman Phifer instead of the next Chad Brown.

This game will be entertaining enough to at least watch the battle for quarterback for the visitors. No matter who is in there slinging passes for the red and white, it will be well worth watching.

One man who ought to be watching is longtime Cardinal quarterback Jim Hart, who played for the Cards between 1966 and 1983. Penny for his thoughts on Leinart's holdout.


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