Matt Leinart: “This is the first time in a long time where I feel confident every single day.”

There is a changing of the guards in Arizona this year as Kurt Warner retired from the NFL and left the job to Matt Leinart.  Leinart needs to show that he has learned and improved his game from the mistake-prone play most Cardinals fans have become accustomed to during his first four years in the NFL.  When the Cardinals drafted Leinart tenth overall in the ‘06 draft, just about everybody thought it was a perfect marriage.  Arizona, the perpetual dark-horse candidate, finally had a franchise quarterback and Leinart, who had excelled in a pro-style offense at USC, was experienced beyond his years and it would only be a matter of time before he assumed the full-time job.  It didn’t quite work out like that.  After starting eleven games in his rookie season, Leinart has had a tough time trying to get out onto the playing field. Part of the problem was that he struggled with the offense, but there were bigger concerns with his maturity, as photos of him partying surfaced on the internet and spread like wildfire.  But since the birth of his son, things seem to have settled down with him and he is now completely focused on becoming the franchise quarterback that Arizona drafted him for.  He is spending more time studying film and working with the players and coaches so that they are all on the same page once they step out onto the field.  Leinart has said throughout the offseason that he is confident that he can replace Warner but he must now prove it on the field. Matt Leinart joined XTRA 910 in Phoenix to talk about the maturity level he is at right now in his career, how much more improved he is at seeing the field and watching film now than earlier in his career, and whether he still feels like he has something to prove.

On the maturity level he is at right now in his career:

“Yeah it is just, I think any time you come out of college and you are on top of the world and you come in, not everything is going to go great.  Obviously I have had some ups and downs but just what I learned and have been through the last three or four years is such a big difference.  I think no matter what you do in life from twenty-one to twenty-seven you are just going to mature.  That is human nature, but for me just having to deal with what I have dealt with and then being a father, which is the greatest blessing of all-time…  I have always been focused on football, to be honest with you, I have always loved it.  This is what I was born to do but I don’t think that I really knew how much it took in preparation and what it takes to be great and be successful.  That is what I understand right now by being injured, by sitting behind a hall of famer and just kind of saying, ok if I want to be great and I want to be successful this is what I have got to do and that is what I have learned.”

On his confidence rises once he steps onto the field:

“This is the first time in a long time where I feel confident every single day.  I know that I know what I am doing.  I know that every time that I go out to practice that I am building on that consistency getting better and I think I am having good OTA’s.  Obviously I am never satisfied , but I think I am my own perfectionist and I want to just keep doing better and better and I want to be great and I want to lead this team to a Super Bowl and I want to do all of these things so I am just going to keep grinding.  I am going to keep working my butt off.  I am not going to let down at all and I know what the year holds for me and I know what I have to do.  I know my job and that is what I am going to do.  Yeah, it is just different now.  Being in the offense now for the fourth year knowing that I am the guy and having that mindset where there is competition at every position but knowing that I am starting that I am the starting quarterback for this team and the guys are counting on me.  It is just like it is almost always a pressure release for my shoulder.  That is kind of what it feels like even though people think differently that there is way more pressure on me but I don’t really feel that.  I feel that this is what I can do, I know what I can do and now I have an opportunity to show it.”

How much more improved he is at seeing the field and watching film now than earlier in his career:

“I want to say that the more reps you get the more you see and get to react and you see different defenses you learn from mistakes in that regard.  I think last year I made a huge step in my preparation and playing and the playing time that I got and so I carried that over into this year.  It is just all about going out there and understanding what you are doing.  I think I knew that last year but even more so this year.”

Whether he still feels like he has something to prove:

“Yeah I think, I don’t like to look at it that way but I am not…  I understand the situation that I am in.  I know that I haven’t proven myself.  I know that you know hey, I know that there are a lot of people that don’t like me and doubt me but it is fine.  I really personally don’t care because I have been through so much and have head so much that I care about the people who care about me and who are there for me and actually know me and my teammates and my coaches and the people in the Cardinals organization they know that I am ready and they can see it and that is all that matters.  Everything else will fall into place but I do feel that there is something to prove, for sure.  I mean I am not going to go out there and try the me against the world and all of this stuff.  I am going to go out there and be me, play well and lead this team and then people can form there opinion however they want and I use is as motivation but I know that I am ready.  That is the bottom line so.”

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