QB: Comments based on 'insinuations'

Updated: February 5, 2004, 9:26 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Kurt Warner angered Rams coach Mike Martz when he said on Super Bowl Sunday that religious beliefs might have contributed to his benching last season.

The two-time NFL MVP apologized Thursday, saying the speech was almost totally about the power of positive thinking. Warner's agent said the remarks were taken out of context.

Kurt Warner
Warner

"It was my intention to give an inspirational message about keeping the faith and fighting through adversity," Warner said in a statement. "I simply wanted to encourage people to stay true to themselves in good times and bad.

"I regret any controversy this has created. My intentions were to send a positive and uplifting message."

The Web site baptistpress.com on Monday quoted Warner, who gave a speech in Houston on Super Bowl Sunday, as saying that "[Rams] coaches say I was reading the Bible too much and it was taking away from my play. People were saying I had lost my job [as Rams starter] because of my faith."

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch picked up on the story Wednesday and quoted Rams coach Mike Martz as saying Warner's remarks were "off the wall" and "incomprehensible."

In an interview Thursday with ESPN Radio affiliate KFNS in St. Louis, Warner said he did not believe his faith was a factor in Martz's benching him.

"Never did I make the statement that my faith was the reason I wasn't playing," Warner told KFNS. "I don't know if that was the case, [but] I don't believe that. The statements I made over the weekend were just to bring up the fact that there were insinuations and speculation I heard from a number of people that things off the field could have had as much with this as things on the field."

People were saying I had lost my job because of my faith.
Kurt Warner

Will Hall, executive editor of The Baptist Press, issued a statement Thursday.

"Baptist Press published a report about the message Kurt Warner presented at a Houston area church. Mr. Warner underscored to this group the importance of being strong in your faith in good times as well as in adversity. Our reporter taped the message and I am confident that Mr. Warner's intent was to inspire and encourage others with his remarks -- this was the context of our report."

Warner's agent, Mark Bartelstein, told the Post-Dispatch that Warner's comment was "taken totally out of context. He went down to make a speech in Houston about staying strong in your faith. His message was about staying true to yourself in good times and bad ... People there said the speech was very positive."

Martz expressed shock when he heard about Warner's comments as portrayed by the Web site.

"I can't imagine Kurt saying that. Nothing could be further from the truth," Martz said. "If he said that, it's a bald-faced lie. I'm just tired of dealing with this type of behavior."

In recent interviews with James Brown of Sporting News Radio and on KFNS Radio, Warner had said that "off-the-field stuff" had been a factor in losing his job after the 2003 season opener, during which he fumbled six times in a loss to the Giants. Warner suffered a concussion in that game as well.

Marc Bulger replaced Warner for the remainder of the season, and the Rams finished 12-4 before losing to eventual NFC champion Carolina in the divisional playoffs.

According to www.baptistpress.com, Warner said "You want to say, 'God, how could You allow this to happen?' I thought I was over the fact of being a backup. It was such a shock, but God has allowed me to use this greater platform for Him.

"If you can stand up for your faith when you're on top, you can stand up for it now that you're at the bottom."

I can't foresee any circumstance where we would trade Kurt Warner, and he needs to understand that.
Mike Martz

Warner had a breakout season with the Rams in 1999, leading them to victory in the Super Bowl and winning the NFL's MVP award. Since leading St. Louis to another Super Bowl appearance following the 2001 season, Warner has struggled with injuries and inconsistent play. Since then, with Bulger entrenched as St. Louis' No. 1 quarterback, Warner has made only seven starts.

Some wonder if Warner's Bible-related remarks could be part of a plan to force the Rams to trade him?

"We're not trading him," Martz told the Post-Dispatch. "I can't foresee any circumstance where we would trade Kurt Warner, and he needs to understand that."

"Kurt loves the coaches and players and has great respect for them," Warner's agent told the newspaper. "Look how he handled the situation all season. Look at his support for Marc and how he kept things positive."

Martz said he's undecided on who will be the Rams' starting quarterback next season.