KITNA: Plenty to play for

IRVING, Tex. - Thursday won't mark the first time quarterback Jon Kitna has had to work on Thanksgiving; his previous team, the Detroit Lions, also entertain a nation of fans while they fill up on turkey and mashed potatoes.

The shortened work week, Kitna said, accelerates the preparation pace for the teams playing, but everyone figures out a way to get through it.

"You're going to be a little sore through Wednesday — Thursday is usually the day you come out of it — but (by Thursday) the adrenaline will take over," Kitna said. "I don't worry about it."

Not only does Kitna know to get through a shortened week of preparation, the idea of playing on Thanksgiving also has lost a little of its luster … or at least he would like to be playing a lesser opponent.

"It is not exciting to see the New Orleans Saints come in here," he joked about Thursday's matchup with the defending Super Bowl champions. "I'd rather be playing somebody else. But that's who's next on the schedule. We've got to be ready to roll."

At 38 years old, it's natural that there is speculation about whether Kitna still can play. Coming off an efficient performance in Sunday's 35-19 victory over the Detroit Lions, a game in which he completed 18 of 24 passes for a modest 147 yards and three touchdowns, Kitna clearly remains confident in his ability to continue playing, in part because of the talent that surrounds him in the Cowboys' locker room.

"I have always felt I have the ability to play this position at a high level," Kitna said. "I've said before, the guys around me are the most talented players I have ever played with. They really make my job pretty easy."

Despite the Cowboys' dreadful start to the 2010 season, Kitna said that he and his teammates remain focused on winning games for the right reasons, including a longshot run at a playoff berth. The 14th-year veteran said he and his team are not at the point where they will have to find satisfaction in ruining another team's postseason hopes.

"We're not playing to be spoilers," Kitna said. "The motivation here is that they fired our head coach. That's an indictment of this football team. When there's a change in coaches, there usually is a massive turnover in players, too. That's part of the deal when a coach gets fired.

"If we don't win games, heads are going to roll. That's the biggest motivating factor, in my opinion."

To Kitna, the motivation to play for the success of his own team — rather than to ruin another team's season — goes back to the most basic satisfaction he gets from playing sports.

"I just love competing," Kitna said. "Every chance I get to go out there and play is another chance to compete. You can't beat that."

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