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With Matt Schaub injured, Matt Leinart is a starting QB again

November 15, 2011 | 10:59 am

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Just when the Houston Texans were looking like one of the teams to beat in the AFC, quarterback Matt Schaub suffers a foot injury that will keep him out indefinitely. Now is the time for Matt Leinart to prove, once and for all, that he can be a successful starting quarterback in the NFL.

“It’s a huge opportunity for me,” said Leinart, a former Heisman trophy winner at USC who has served as Schaub's backup the last two seasons. “I’m really bummed for Matt. We’ve become very close the last year and this year. He’s the leader of this football team and he’s done a great job in the 4 to 5 years he’s been here to get us to this point.... But he knows and everyone knows in this profession that things happen and the next guy has to step up."

Leinart has had his chances before, and it hasn't worked out so well. He was drafted 10th overall by the Arizona Cardinals in 2006 and started 11 of the 12 games he played that year, throwing 11 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in leading the team to a 4-7 record in those games.

He started the first five games of the following season -- throwing two touchdowns and four interceptions but leading the Cardinals to a 3-2 record -- before breaking his collarbone. Leinart never regained his starting job from veteran Kurt Warner, who led the team to its only Super Bowl appearance.

When Warner retired before the 2010 season, it appeared Leinart would reclaim his starting spot -- instead, he was cut just before the start of the season and landed with the Texans. Leinart initially agreed to join the Seattle Seahawks before this season, but opted to re-sign with Houston when he discovered he would have to compete with two other quarterbacks for the Seahawks starting job.

Now he's a starter again with the Texans, who are 7-3 and have a two-game lead in the AFC South.

“That's what I've wanted for a long time, and that's what I've worked hard for every day and prepared for every day,” Leinart said. “It's a great opportunity. I'm just excited about the chance.”

Head Coach Gary Kubiak says he has plenty of confidence in his new starter.

“He's played in big football games in this league, he's played in big football games in college,” Kubiak said. “Matt's been around it. The key is the whole team rallying around him and playing well as a team. Matt doesn't have to go win a game, the team has to go win a game. We'll rally around him and get him ready to go.”

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-- Chuck Schilken

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Photo: Matt Leinart. Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press

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