"New chapter" for Leinart begins


Quarterback Matt Leinart practiced as a Texan for the first time on Wednesday at the Methodist Training Center in Houston.

The 2004 Heisman Trophy winner from USC, who was released by the Cardinals on Saturday and signed by the Texans on Tuesday, took reps as the third quarterback behind starter Matt Schaub and backup Dan Orlovsky.

"You can tell he's played a lot of football," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "He walked out here, he spent the last two days with (quarterbacks coach) Greg (Knapp) kind of getting down our base stuff and went in the huddle, and he ran the team. What we'll do is take it a day at a time and see how far we can bring him. But I think he fits what we do, and we're excited to work with him."

Leinart is excited to be working with Kubiak, whose passing offense led the NFL in with 290.9 yards per game last season. He said it's reminiscent of the offense he ran at USC, where he threw for 10,693 career yards and completed 64.8 percent of his passes.

"It's more play-action stuff," Leinart said. "That's something I did a lot in college, and it's something that we actually didn't do a whole lot in Arizona just because Kurt (Warner) had his strengths, and his strengths were four or five wides, get the ball out and we weren't under center a whole lot. There's a lot more play-action stuff and throwing the ball down the field, which is something that I like to do."

Texans defensive tackle Shaun Cody, Leinart's teammate at USC from 2001-04, thinks that the change of scenery will serve him well.

"I was excited to have another Trojan in the building, because that equals more wins for our team," Cody said. "But from talking to him, he was frustrated out there and he needed a change of environment, a new place to call home. I think being here with Kubiak as a quarterback guy and being with this offense, it's definitely the kind of scheme that's beneficial for him.

"His best attribute is the way he sees the game. He's real smart and he can sift through defenses, and I think that's always been his best attribute. So once he brings that, I think he'll be good."

Texans defensive end Antonio Smith was with the Cardinals during Leinart's first three seasons from 2006-08. He watched first-hand as the 10th overall pick in the '06 draft threw for 2,547 yards in 11 starts as a rookie.

"He kind of lit the city up, gave the city something to cheer about at first," Smith said. "Half the people in Arizona didn't know they had a football team, but when he came, it kind of made it like Hollywood. That's the season we kind of first took off, the season we started to make a buzz about ourselves."

Leinart was injured five games into his second season in 2007, Ken Whisenhunt's first as Cardinals head coach. He lost the starting job to Warner in 2008.

"Whiz came in, new system," Smith said. "Kurt fit it a little bit better, and I think Whiz believed in Kurt a little bit more, so it kind of, in my opinion, threw his confidence off or something like that. But this is a new beginning. You can make a new life for yourself, and it's up to you. I think it's in his own destiny. I think that he's got all the skills you need. He ain't lacking in nothing. I think he's a good quarterback. You've just got to find whatever it is you need to find to reach the level that everybody wants you to play at."

Less than a week after being ousted for the Cardinals' starting job by Derek Anderson, Leinart said he was grateful to have learned under Warner and is excited now to learn from Schaub.

"The thing that I've learned, especially the last couple years, is control what you can control," he said. "I worked hard. I prepared hard for this season, this preseason. I thought I played well, had a good training camp, and it just didn't go as planned. It just didn't go the way (I hoped), and Coach (Whisenhunt) decided to go in a different direction. You know, we had our differences, but at the same time, I think we respect each other and it was just time to move on, obviously. I'm happy to be here. I'm excited. It's a new chapter."

That attitude is one of the things that Kubiak is most impressed with about his newest quarterback.

"He's very positive from the standpoint of wanting a new start and going back to work," Kubiak said. "Do I think we can help him get headed back in the right direction? Yeah, I sure do, so I'm excited about it. I know our team, having Matt Leinart walk in your locker room gives us more confidence at the quarterback position and makes it stronger."

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