TAMPA -- The questions came flying at Matt Leinart one after another like an interrogation. How humbled are you? How demoralized are you? How frustrated are you? Leinart, after all, was top-10 draft pick, a Heisman Trophy winner, a two-time national champion at USC and was the starting quarterback of the Arizona Cardinals in training camp before being replaced by Kurt Warner before the season opener.
The popular misperception is that Leinart is supposed to hate his role as the apprentice, resent Warner for taking his job and treat his first trip to the Super Bowl as a back-up like a trip to the dentist.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Does Leinart want to play? Sure. But since when does learning from a potential Hall of Fame quarterback as a 25-year-old at the Super Bowl make someone a charity case? It would be one thing if Leinart were backing up a scrub on a team that didn't make the playoffs but it's another to be sitting behind Warner, who was a candidate for NFL MVP, on a Cardinals team that is making its first ever Super Bowl appearance.
I would rather be in the Super Bowl, soaking in the experience of a successful playoff run behind a future Hall of Famer than starting for a bad team going nowhere.
One of the players Leinart talked to after being demoted was Steve Young, who told him that his time would come and that he should take advantage of his time waiting in the wings by observing Warner and spending time in the film room with offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
Young could have continued his path as a starter for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as he did his first two years in the NFL, but he didn't mind sitting behind Joe Montana for four years in San Francisco and winning a couple Super Bowl rings. Sure, people could have looked at Young and felt sorry for the former BYU prodigy who had inked a then-record $40 million contract with the Los Angeles Express of the USFL and was now riding the pine. But Young knew his day would come when he was ready.
No one knows if Leinart will go on to have anywhere near the kind of career Young had after he took over for Montana, but while he waits for his opportunity there are worse places Leinart could be than in Tampa, one play away from taking the field in the Super Bowl.
Check SI.com's Super Blog regularly for more dispatches from Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa.