Warner's season over after suffering MCL injury

Updated: December 19, 2005, 12:24 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Two-time league most valuable player Kurt Warner will miss the final two games of the season with a right knee injury, leaving his future with the Arizona Cardinals uncertain, and the team's quarterback situation beyond this year characteristically unsettled.

Arizona Cardinals

Att Comp Yds TD Int Rat
365 232 2452 10 9 83.6

Warner suffered damage to his medial collateral ligament, at least a strain and possibly a partial tear, early in the first quarter of Sunday's loss to the Houston Texans. He continued to play with the injury for two more series but was eventually replaced by Josh McCown in the second quarter. In just over a quarter, Warner completed all 10 of his pass attempts for 115 yards and a touchdown.

McCown then left the game at halftime because of flu-like symptoms, and No. 3 quarterback John Navarre finished the game.

It is uncertain who will start for Arizona next week at Philadelphia but, if he is healthy, McCown likely will play. McCown was the Cardinals' starter in 2004, before the team signed Warner in the offseason, and started four games earlier this year.

Coach Dennis Green announced following a 30-19 loss, which dropped the disappointing Cardinals to 4-10, that Warner would not play in the final two games. Most injuries to the medial collateral ligament do not require surgery but do take several weeks of rest.

Kurt Warner
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesWarner threw for more than 300 yards five times this year, but at 34 years old is he still the answer for Arizona?

"[Warner] hurt his knee on the first or third play of our first possession," Green said. "He did some damage to his MCL and he won't be back this year."

Warner, 34, started 10 games in his first season with the Cardinals, completing 242 of 375 passes for 2,713 yards, with 11 touchdown passes and nine interceptions. He threw for over 300 yards in five of his starts. With the dynamic, young wide receiver tandem of Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald, the Cardinals have one of the league's most potent passing attacks. But Warner and McCown also suffered from the NFL's lowest-rated running game, and Arizona has failed to rush for 100 yards in any game this season.

Complicating the Arizona quarterback situation is that both Warner and McCown are eligible for unrestricted free agency in March. The conventional wisdom was that the Cardinals had all but decided to try to sign Warner, who is playing under a one-year contract worth $4 million, to an extension before he went on the free agent market.

Under that scenario, McCown, who was playing under a $1.43 million restricted free agent qualifying offer this year, would be allowed to depart.

Having played for three different teams in the last three seasons, Warner probably would be receptive to an extension offer, if the money was right. Because they are up against the spending limit for this year, the Cardinals probably could not make a legitimate offer until after the season ended.

But even with Warner's knee injury not a particularly serious one, and not likely to affect his availability for offseason programs, it does add another element to the Cardinals' consideration of just how to proceed in addressing the quarterback situation for beyond 2005. Warner will be 35 before the start of the '06 campaign and the Cardinals certainly will closely monitor his rehabilitation from the knee injury.

There is some feeling the Cardinals may approach Minnesota about the availability of Daunte Culpepper, who was chosen by Green when he was the Vikings' head coach.

Warner played the first six seasons of his nomadic career with the St. Louis Rams, led the team to a Super Bowl XXXIV title in 1999, and twice won most valuable player honors. He was released by the Rams following the 2003 season and played in 2004 with the New York Giants.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.