Graybeards square off, maybe, in Vikes vs. Cards

Dec 5, 2009 - 5:01 AM By BOB BAUM AP Sports Writer

GLENDALE, Ariz.(AP) -- Together, they have thrown for more than 56 miles in 31 NFL seasons.

Brett Favre and Kurt Warner are still at it, with no sign of diminished abilities, at age 40 and 38, respectively. Each has his team at the top of its division standings.

"I don't want to speak for Brett," Warner said, "but I know with me, I play the game now the same way I played it 12 years ago."

The lure of the two quarterbacks with the ageless arms was one reason NBC "flexed" the schedule to move the matchup between Favre's powerful Minnesota Vikings (11-1) and Warner's Arizona Cardinals (7-4) to Sunday night.

Minnesota coach Brad Childress said Favre and Warner are different styles of quarterbacks.

"I think Kurt is a great anticipatory thrower," Childress said. "He is going to throw early. He's not going to throw hard. He has a great, uncanny feel for the deep ball and seams and putting it in holes and letting guys run to it."

But Warner's participation was no sure thing.

Although Warner practiced all week, coach Ken Whisenhunt wouldn't commit to him as the starter, citing uncertainty surrounding his recovery from a concussion. Warner said he was feeling far better, but he split practice time evenly with backup Matt Leinart.

Whisenhunt was not going to repeat the previous week's scenario, when Warner took all the first-string practice reps, then he and the team's medical staff decided he shouldn't play because of lingering symptoms from a concussion he received the previous week in St. Louis.

Leinart got his first start in two years and Warner's streak of 41 consecutive starts ended.

It's a streak that pales compared with Favre's record participation in 282 consecutive games. He will set the NFL record when he takes his first snap Sunday.

"I'm happy for him," Warner said. "I'm happy he has found a home and is playing at a high level."

The two quarterbacks were on opposing sides just a year ago, when Favre's New York Jets routed Arizona at the Meadowlands 56-35. The Vikings are familiar foes for the Cardinals, too, with similar results.

They won at Arizona 35-14. It was part of a Cardinals' tailspin of four losses in five games. No one could predict that Arizona team would get it together for a stunning run to the Super Bowl.

That Minnesota team didn't have Favre or rookie playmaker Percy Harvin. Added to the running of Adrian Peterson, they have given the Vikings a multifaceted offense to go with their rugged defense.

"We had great expectations for our team before we even knew or thought, I guess, the idea was being entertained that he (Favre) was going to come here," defensive end Jared Allen said. "...We had high goals to repeat as NFC North champions and get into the playoffs, get in the Super Bowl, and win the Super Bowl. Our goals haven't changed. Brett has just become a part of it."

And a very big part, Allen added.

Favre has thrown for 24 touchdowns with just three interceptions.

After getting his right arm surgically repaired after last season, he is throwing hard, accurately and, most significantly, pain-free.

"My ankles are sore after every game," Favre said, "but not one throw this year I felt either after or during the throw where I was like `Whoa.' I will say it again. I'm probably as surprised as anyone."

He will face an Arizona defense that's last moments on a football field were ugly, when Vince Young directed Tennessee on a 99-yard drive culminating, with a winning touchdown pass on the game's final play.

It was very reminiscent of what the Pittsburgh Steelers did to Arizona at the end of the Super Bowl.

"It felt just like that - 100 percent," Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell said. "It was just tough. When you go out there and fight and you have a chance to win the game and everything's feeling good, and the last second everything is pulled away. It's like `Wow, how did that happen?"'

Arizona, just 2-3 at home after going 8-2 there last season, will have to protect the quarterback from a fierce pass rush led by Allen, No. 2 in the NFL with 12 1/2 sacks.

"First and foremost, we have to stop the run. You have to be good on first and second downs so you can force them into third-and-longs or long downs," Allen said. "Then you have to get pressure on Kurt. He gets the ball out of his hands really fast."

The Cardinals could be without starting left tackle Mike Gandy (injured pelvis). He would be replaced by Jeremy Bridges. It would end a string of 31 games with Arizona starting the same offensive line.

Allen lives in Arizona in the offseason, just down the street from good friend Larry Fitzgerald. Allen and the Cardinals' All-Pro receiver visited U.S. troops in Iraq and Kuwait in the offseason, then journeyed to Dubai, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Egypt.

"He's the best. He's a great dude," Allen said. "Our friendship has really blossomed."

So does that mean Allen would resist flattening Fitzgerald on Sunday night?

"Not a chance," Allen said. "It isn't going to stop him from crack-backing on me, either."






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