Role reversal: Cassel winning, Leinart sitting

December, 18, 2008
12/18/08
11:12
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

How fathomable would this scene have been four years ago? Four months ago?

Not very.

A reporter on Thursday asked Matt Cassel a valid question about what Matt Leinart's going through with the Arizona Cardinals.

LeinartCassel

"I think as a backup quarterback, as a competitor, anytime you want to be out there," Cassel said. "You want to be playing. So that part's very difficult."

Leinart won the Heisman Trophy in 2004. Cassel, until Week 2 of his fourth pro season, hadn't started a game since high school. He backed up Leinart and another Heisman winner, Carson Palmer, at Southern California.

Now Leinart is considered a flop and buried behind MVP candidate Kurt Warner. Palmer's stuck in Cincinnati and hurt again.

Yet, there was Cassel, starting quarterback for a first-place club, sympathizing with his buddy Leinart, who he will chat with -- but probably not play against -- Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

"When you're able to step back and learn from a guy like Kurt, because he's so good and because he's so established, you can learn a lot of things," Cassel said. "Then when Matt is ready to go and he steps in to take over that team, he'll be ready and probably more prepared than what he was."

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