ST. LOUIS — Mike Martz, the St. Louis Rams coach, said Kurt Warner’s agent overreacted to a conversation he had with the quarterback, emphasizing there’s still a chance the two-time MVP could stay with the team.
Martz on Wednesday characterized his Monday conversation with Warner as a necessary “first step” in the process after he decided to go with Marc Bulger as his quarterback for next season. He said he had promised Warner and his agent, Mark Bartelstein, he would inform him when he had made a decision.
“It was a very difficult conversation, the hardest one I’ve ever had with a player,” Martz said. “He asked what his future was. I think from that point on it just kind of took on a life of its own.”
Bartelstein said Tuesday his client expected to be released after June 1 and added he expected interest around the NFL in Warner. On Wednesday, Bartelstein stood behind those words.
“I don’t think I overreacted at all,” Bartelstein said. “I represent the highest-rated quarterback in the history of the NFL, and he wants to play football, and the world doesn’t wait for you.
“My job is to try to find him a new home,” he said.
Bartelstein said Warner, who was returning from a speaking engagement in Montana, preferred not to comment.
“I think he wants the dust to settle a little bit on all of this,” Bartelstein said.
Martz blamed himself for not making it clear to Warner that he still could be back. He also said he expects Warner to continue participating in offseason workouts and minicamps.
“I’m afraid in my discussions with Kurt that I got carried away and led him to believe this was it,” Martz said.
It’s still highly likely the Rams will release Warner. Martz reiterated that discussions on a long-term contract with Bulger could impact what happens; reaching a deal would increase the likelihood of Warner leaving the team. Talks with Bulger also could impact whether the Rams select a quarterback in the first round of Saturday’s NFL draft.
Bulger has been a big success in 1½ seasons as a starter with the Rams. He won his first six starts in 2002 and led the team to a 12-4 record and an NFC West championship last year, then was the MVP in the Pro Bowl.
Warner was the NFL MVP in 1999 and 2001, leading the team to the Super Bowl each year. He had three touchdown passes and 11 interceptions in an injury-plagued 2002 and lost his job after fumbling six times while suffering a concussion in the opener last year.
Martz declined to discuss his reasoning for going with Bulger.
“There’s a lot of things involved with that, a lot of factors, and I think that’s something that’s better left unsaid,” Martz said. “Obviously, it took a great deal of time to come to that conclusion.”
Martz said his relationship with Warner has not been affected.