FLAGSTAFF - Kurt Warner was asked Sunday if he had talked with Matt Leinart much recently, and the Cardinals quarterback quipped that “I see him on TV a lot.”
There’s a chance that may be the only way Warner will see his training camp roommate anytime soon.
With the Cards reporting to Northern Arizona University Sunday to begin camp, it became clear that Leinart would not be showing up on time.
The question now is how long Arizona’s top draft pick and quarterback of the future will be absent.
Negotiations between Leinart and the franchise actually stalled Saturday, with Leinart’s negotiating agent, Tom Condon, leaving the Valley on Sunday after what turned out to be fruitless face-to-face talks with Cardinals vice president of football operations Rod Graves.
Graves said the two sides did not talk Sunday and no talks are officially scheduled, although Graves said he was “pretty confident” negotiations would resume soon.
Condon, who has not returned phone messages, told ESPN.com, “We’re hung up on a lot of issues. It’s time to go home.”
One issue is the hang-up feared by the Cardinals when Leinart fell to them with the No. 10 pick. Leinart wants a contract more in the vein of what No. 3 pick Vince Young — considered the other premier quarterback in the draft — received. The Cardinals see a third quarterback, Denver’s Jay Cutler, signing right behind Leinart as the 11th pick and are offering a raise from that.
On the surface, the difference is huge. Cutler’s deal called for around $11 million in guarantees. Young will get more than $25 million in guarantees from Tennessee. In addition, it’s believed the Cards want Leinart to sign a six-year deal, but his side wants a five-year pact. It also hasn’t gone unremembered by the Leinart camp that coach Dennis Green told Leinart on draft day that the quarterback’s tumble to the 10th spot was a “gift from heaven.”
Detroit linebacker Ernie Sims, drafted No. 9, signed early Sunday. With both Sims and Cutler done, the Cards feel Leinart’s “slot” has been determined.
“The league is pretty clear cut,” Green noted.
But while Green mistakenly said slotting is agreed upon in the collective bargaining agreement, the fact is it is not. It also isn’t unusual for quarterbacks to expect more money when they are drafted.
“We feel that with the ninth and 11th picks in, we should be able to carve out a deal,” Graves said, declining to talk specifics other than “we feel like it is a deal that certainly offers more than the deal behind us (with Cutler).”
Graves said the organization’s elation with Leinart on draft day hasn’t changed.
“This is a business situation that unfortunately we couldn’t tie up in a timely fashion but none that will reflect negatively on Matt Leinart,” Graves said.
Green also said he never lets contract negotiations become personal. He did however say that if Leinart misses time it will hamper him in his battle with John Navarre to be Warner’s backup.
“If John gets more reps than he gets, that’s in John’s favor,” Green said. “Everyone knows how I feel about (Navarre), I haven’t changed one bit. I think he’s a very talented guy.”
Leinart’s absence was the only down note on what may have been the most optimistic reporting day to training camp the team has ever had.
“You don’t want to start this thing without anybody and as a young quarterback, you never want to miss any time,” Warner said. “You only get a limited amount of snaps.
“I know he wants to be here. Hopefully, he’s the next one in line (to sign).”