TEMPE, Ariz. – The Arizona Cardinals are home after a week on the road, dragging a quarterback controversy that shows no sign of any quick resolution.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt, speaking after the team practiced on Monday, seemed happy to allow the issue to simmer. Asked if he would name his starter after Thursday night's final preseason game against Washington, the coach replied, "Who knows? Maybe we'll keep them guessing."
It's a situation Whisenhunt created with his surprising decision to start Derek Anderson in last Saturday night's game at Chicago ahead of Matt Leinart, who had been the No. 1 quarterback throughout training camp.
While Anderson expressed gratitude for the opportunity on Monday, Leinart said he believes he has outplayed his competition.
"I don't really know what else I could possibly do," Leinart said. "It probably goes beyond football, beyond the field actually. For me, I am not making excuses. I am not going to complain. For me, I just really want an explanation and I haven't been given one."
Asked if he had something specific in mind about an off-the-field problem, Leinart said, "No, I don't know."
Whisenhunt denied he had anything personally against Leinart, saying he has "great affection for Matt and the way he's worked and what he's gone through."
"I think we've been consistent with, and this is going into our fourth season, in trying to pick the best team and put the players that give us the best chance to win in there ... ," the coach said. "It's not about whether you like somebody or don't like somebody, it's about what you feel is right for the team."
Anderson and Leinart each threw a touchdown pass in the 14-9 victory over the Bears. Leinart nearly directed the team to another score, operating a two-minute offense in a drive that ended when Beanie Wells fumbled at the Chicago 6-yard line.
"Like I said, I've done all I can do to this point," Leinart said. "I feel like I've outplayed the competition — training camp, pre-season. I think my play speaks for that. For me, I can just move forward every day. I can't worry about anything that I can't control, like I have said all along. We will just keep grinding away and working."
Whisenhunt was asked what he sees in Anderson, the former Oregon State quarterback who has a strong arm but has had problems with accuracy.
"There's a lot of things he brings to the table other than just being his size and having a good arm," Whisenhunt said, "as far as his knowledge of the game, how he handles himself in the huddle, how he interacts with his teammates, their confidence level with him as a quarterback."
The coach would not say whether he believes the team has more confidence in Anderson than in Leinart.
"I'm not going to sit here and make assessments or judgments of our players right now," Whisenhunt said. "We're going to decide what we feel like is best with our team when we're finished with pre-season, and then we'll go from that point, like we've done in the past."
As for whether the team has confidence in him, Leinart said, "I don't know about my teammates."
"I feel like I have a good relationship with them," he said. "I've talked to a bunch of them, so I don't know what it is."
The Cardinals had been on the road for a week, staying in Tennessee to practice after a 24-10 Monday night loss to the Titans, then traveling to Chicago for the Saturday night game against the Bears.
Anderson has seen significantly more playing time than Leinart in the preseason. Anderson has completed 31 of 53 passes (59 percent) for 287 yards and two touchdown, with two interceptions.
Leinart has completed 83 percent (19 of 23), most of them short-range throws, for 161 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions. He has been sacked four times to Anderson's one. Anderson's longest completion is 37 yards to Leinart's 18.
While Leinart has a self-proclaimed "pretty laid-back" demeanor, Anderson is hyperactive in practice and intense during games.
"I've always been a guy that plays with a lot of energy, a lot of emotion, sometimes maybe too much," Anderson said. "... I get excited and I want things done right. It's just kind of the way I am."
After losing his starting job to Brady Quinn in Cleveland last season, then being released by the team, Anderson is highly motivated to return to the form he had in leading the Browns to a 10-6 season in 2007.
"I know what level I can play at," he said. "It wasn't an aberration, it wasn't just a mirage, what happened that year."
Leinart, the former Heisman Trophy with one start since he went down with a broken collar bone and was replaced by Kurt Warner five games into the 2007 season, insisted he would be optimistic regardless of the outcome of the quarterback fight.
"I am not really worried about it because I know I am going to play at one point this year, whether it's week one or week six," he said. "I feel like my opportunity is going to come and the good thing is I am confident in my ability because I know what I can do.