Life is full of what-if questions. Here’s an example: What if Kurt Warner hadn’t been bitten by a bug before the start of the 1998 season?
It’s a silly question on its surface, but it had an absolutely monumental impact on the Hall of Fame quarterback’s future. Warner on Friday revealed that, if it wasn’t for an unfortunate series of scheduling conflicts — and a bite from an unknown creepy crawler — he very well could have been a Chicago Bear instead of St. Louis Ram.
That revelation came in an interview with the Barstool Sports podcast “Pardon My Take.” As he tells it, Warner — who was still playing in the Arena Football League at the time — received a call from Chicago asking him to fly in for a workout that Friday. After initially agreeing to fly in, his then-fiancee Brenda Warner had to remind the hothead that they were getting married on Saturday. So, he had to call back and reschedule the workout for the following week.
Except, as Brenda reminded him, they were going on their honeymoon after the ceremony. So, Kurt Warner again had to call back and ask to reschedule. The Bears obliged him and set up the workout date while the newlyweds were on vacation in Jamaica. The night before they left to return home, however, Warner was bitten by some sort of bug — “To this day we still don’t know what it was that bit me” — causing his throwing elbow to swell to the “size of a grapefruit.”
So, he had the unenviable task of calling the Bears a third time to explain why he couldn’t throw for them.
“Of course, I had to call the Bears back again and go, ‘OK. You’re not going to believe this. Yes, the first time it was my wedding, the second time it was my honeymoon. And now I got bit on my throwing elbow by something in Jamaica,'” Warner said. “And you can only imagine what was going on on the other end of the line, going, ‘Who is this dude? We’re trying to give him a chance to make it in the NFL and this is what he comes up with three times?’
“And so, basically, after that, they hung up and they never called back and I never got the workout. And then about two weeks later is when I got the call from the Rams and flew in and did the workout. And they ended up signing me.”
Below is the full interview, in which Warner is hilarious in his retelling:
The rest, as they say, is history. Warner was third on the Rams’ depth chart in ’98 before taking over the starting position the next season — a year in which he earned MVP status and led the Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf” to a Super Bowl 34 victory over the Titans.
The Bears, meanwhile, went 6-10 that season and had a rotating door at quarterback: Shane Matthews, Cade McCown and Jim Miller all suffered losing records as starters, combining to complete 404 of 684 passes (59.1 percent) for 4,352 yards and 25 touchdowns to 22 interceptions.
Warner finished his career throwing for 32,344 yards and 208 touchdowns. He was a two-time MVP, two-time First-Team All-Pro selection, four-time Pro Bowler and led the league in passing yards and touchdowns in 1999 and 2001. He also was a part of three trips to the Super Bowl, though his team lost in both his second and third appearances (St. Louis in Super Bowl 36 and Arizona in Super Bowl 43).
And to think that the majority of his Hall of Fame career came with the Rams, then the Cardinals, all thanks to a bug bite.