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Warner, Whisenhunt lead young Cardinals into Tampa for Super Bowl

Appropriately enough, a tail wind blew the Arizona Cardinals into Tampa ahead of schedule.

Appropriately enough, a tail wind blew the Arizona Cardinals into Tampa ahead of schedule.

The wind, after all, has been at their backs throughout this improbable playoff run to the Super Bowl. It was the third Super Bowl for Kurt Warner, the unquestioned leader of a mostly young team unaccustomed to these heights. The franchise has played for a championship just twice, losing in 1948 the year after winning its only title.

Warner downplayed the triumphant nature of his return to the top after being benched four times since his second Super Bowl in the 2001 season. He was the game's MVP in 1999.

"Unlike probably the other two, and I think definitely the first one, this one up to this point was really like business as usual," he said. "I really felt like it was just another road trip. The whole Super Bowl thing hasn't hit me yet."

This otherwise young Arizona team reflects what Warner called his "commitment to excellence."

"It's all about being the best that I can be," he told a mob of reporters after the team arrived at its bayside hotel, "and doing the best that I can do."

Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt has been here before, too, as offensive co-ordinator of Pittsburgh's Super Bowl champions of three seasons ago.

"It's a little muggy out here," Whisenhunt said, "But fortunately we've got a week to get used to that."

They have much less time to get used to the media frenzy - it starts Tuesday - and they will lean on Warner's experience to get through it.

"Any time you have a player that has Kurt's credentials, that has had the season that Kurt's had throughout this year, it commands respect," Whisenhunt said.

Larry Fitzgerald, dapper in a grey suit and lavender tie, said Warner is a great asset to all facets of his life, not just football.

"We talk about family life, we talk about my faith in God," said Fitzgerald, whose acrobatic catches have been a highlights of the Cards' run. "There's not anything I can't talk to him about."

Fitzgerald would rather not deal with all the pre-game hype, but has accepted it and believes his teammates will as well.

"That's just part of it," he said. "... You have to deal with it. You can't let it beat wear you down. We're happy to be here."

Whisenhunt said he wants his team to enjoy the experience, but "we can't lose sight of the fact that we're here to play a game."

He also knows that trouble is easy to find.

"I don't think you can talk to them about it enough," Whisenhunt said. "I've talked to them about it and will talk to them about this again. That's something that's very important. ... The only thing is give them as much information as you can about it. It really goes back to the type of players that we have. They've done a really good job of handling this so far."

No problem, wide receiver Anquan Boldin said.

"We are trying to go about it as a team preparing for another game," Boldin said. "We are trying to leave all of the hype and hoopla around it out of it, and try to prepare for it as much as possible."

The Cardinals have rolled up 95 points in playoff victories over Atlanta, Carolina and Philadelphia, heady stuff for a franchise that had two playoff victories its entire history before this year.

Sean Morey, who made the Pro Bowl on special teams this year for Arizona, was part of the Steelers' Super Bowl championship and was brought to the Cardinals by Whisenhunt to help instill the attitude and work ethic of a winner.

He said that after Tuesday's media day the team can focus "on the task at hand."

This isn't the first time the Cardinals have spent a week in the East. They stayed in suburban Washington after losing to the Redskins to prepare for the following Sunday's game against the New York Jets.

That didn't turn out so well. The Cardinals lost 56-35.

"This is a different type of week," Fitzgerald said. "It's the Super Bowl and it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I think guys are really focused and ready to do what it takes, no matter if it's curfews, whatever it takes. Guys are ready and we'll be prepared."

 
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