Fans welcome Cardinals back at airport

Updated: February 3, 2009, 8:59 AM ET
Associated Press

PHOENIX -- Fans erupted into cries of "Let's go, Cardinals" as the team returned to Phoenix one day after a tough loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt and some of the team's stars briefly addressed the crowd of more than 4,000 that met the Arizona Cardinals on Monday at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

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Whisenhunt thanked the fans for showing up despite the Cards' defeat. Sunday's 27-23 loss to the Steelers in Tampa, Fla., came in the Cardinals' first appearance in the Super Bowl.

"You guys make it so special," Whisenhunt said. "Thank you for coming out and giving us this little lift as we go forward to next season and get us back to the Super Bowl again."

Dressed in red and white, fans waited in the sun behind barricades to glimpse the team as they exited the plane. Many had drinks to stay hydrated while holding Cardinals flags and signs.

Some carried messages such has "Super Bowl champs in our hearts" and "thanks 4 the ride."

Quarterback Kurt Warner, who was 31-for-43 for 377 yards and three touchdown passes, was dressed in jeans and a long-sleeve, black shirt. He said despite his obvious disappointment, he was happy with how the team played.

"I could not have been more proud of being a part of a football team, a football organization or a football community as I was this year in Arizona," Warner said.

Now a free agent, Warner didn't rule out returning to the Cardinals.

"I hope we made you proud this year and we will keep on going," Warner said. "Go Cardinals!"

Only after shouts of "Larry," did receiver Larry Fitzgerald get on stage. Wearing sunglasses, a gray suit and red tie, Fitzgerald promised another Super Bowl trip.

"We love you and we want to see you guys next year. We're going to do it again," Fitzgerald said. Fitzgerald caught seven passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns.

He and the rest of the team then filed into a waiting caravan of buses.

Many parents took children out of school early or for the entire day to attend.

"When they grow up, they can say 'hey, we watched the Super Bowl. We were there -- we saw the team get off the plane.' [It's] a tradition we want to pass onto our kids," said Veronica Moreno, 32, who brought her three daughters.

For others, it was crucial to show there was no shortage of Cardinals support.

Cardinals fan Dean Tomlinson showed up early to hold a banner hailing them as the "big red band of brothers."

"I'm afforded the chance to come out and do my little piece of the puzzle to help support them when they come home and show them they're an awesome team and we appreciate them," said Tomlinson, of Surprise, Ariz.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press