QB signs deal, partakes in first practices

Updated: June 3, 2004, 9:50 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants are taking some of the pressure off Eli Manning, signing Kurt Warner to be their caretaker quarterback until the top pick in the draft is ready to take over.

While the two-time MVP got a two-year contract worth $9.5 million late Wednesday that will pay him a minimum of $3.5 million ($2 million in base salary) this year, there is no guarantee he will play for the Giants for more than a year.

Warner's tenure will be determined by Manning's progress in his rookie season. When Manning is ready to go, he will be the Giants' quarterback.

Until then, the job seemingly belongs to Warner, the soon-to-be 33-year-old who led the St. Louis Rams to Super Bowl appearances after the 1999 and 2001 seasons. Injuries and the emergence of Marc Bulger earned him a pink slip on Tuesday.

"I am looking to come in and to play and to re-establish myself," Warner said Thursday, hours after his first practice. "I would love this to be where I finish my career."

The second year of Warner's contract is to be worth $6 million, but it is voidable, allowing him to be a free agent after the season, ESPN.com's John Clayton reports. The incentives worked into the contract would significantly increase the payout this year if Warner puts up exceptional statistics and takes the team to the playoffs.

"I don't want to keep moving and picking up my family," Warner added. "I want to continue to have success. I would love it to be here in New York and I will do whatever in my time here to be successful. We'll just see what happens."

"Obviously Manning is there, but this is New York and if Kurt wins, they are not going to want him to leave," said Mark Bartelstein, Warner's agent.

The signing takes a ton of pressure off Manning.

The son of Archie Manning and the brother of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning became the Giants' starting quarterback when Kerry Collins refused to take a pay cut and was released less than a week after New York got the No. 1 pick in a draft-day trade with San Diego.

Manning, who has known for weeks the Giants planned to sign a veteran, still plans on competing for the starting job.

"I don't know if this takes the pressure off," Manning said. "I don't know if anything has changed in my view. I am still going to practice just as hard as ever. I want to be ready."

Manning and Warner spoke for a few minutes on Thursday. Warner plans to tutor Manning, just as he did with Bulger in St. Louis.

"To teach a guy the little things and have him become a better quarterback was fun for me, as frustrating as it was not playing," Warner said. "But I look forward to helping any way I can."

Warner also is looking forward to playing again. He suffered a concussion in a season-opening loss to the Giants last season and did not start for the rest of the year. He missed half the previous season with injuries and has lost his last eight starts, starting with the 2002 Super Bowl.

Warner said the release was a disappointing end to a career that saw the Rams win one Super Bowl and lose another on the final play of the game.

"We had so much success, and things were so great that you would like to ride off into the sunset and finish up that way," Warner said. "That unfortunately didn't work out that way, but more importantly I am excited about this new opportunity because I have a lot more to play."

The Giants are something of a question mark coming into the season.

They posted a 4-12 record last season, a year that started with Super Bowl aspirations and ended with Jim Fassel being fired and Tom Coughlin hired to replace him.

Warner thinks the Giants have a shot at winning a title this season, noting the offensive weapons are in place with Ike Hilliard and Amani Toomer at the wide receiver, Jeremy Shockey at tight end and Tiki Barber at running back.

While the offensive line is a big question mark, Warner said his ability to read defenses should allow him to get rid of the ball quickly.

"We'll never be a team that settles for the doldrums and is not going to try to win," Barber said. "Kurt is a Super Bowl veteran and a two-time league MVP, adding him is a big boost for our team, especially our offense."

Coughlin said that Warner, who was given the No. 13 jersey he wore in St. Louis, , showed no signs of being bothered by thumb and pinkie injuries that have plagued him in recent years.

"He looked like Kurt Warner to me," Coughlin said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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