Kitna takes role as team leader in stride

Lions' starting quarterback Jon Kitna, the 2003 NFL Comeback Player of the Year, already has a proven method: believe in yourself, your teammates and the system. And don't read the local media. Comments, photos and more inside.

ALLEN PARK -- Sporting a Detroit Tigers cap following Friday's opening training camp session, Lions' starting quarterback Jon Kitna was asked almost immediately if he was a Tigers fan.

"As soon as I came to Detroit, I became a Detroit fan," he responded. "I'm a Detroit sports fan – that's where I'm at. When people are successful, you like to look at that and see how they get that way. There's a lot to be learned from that."

His timing couldn't be any more impeccable.

But as the Tigers have been a turnaround marvel, earning rave reviews around the town and league, Kitna will look to provide the same for the Lions. And the 2003 NFL Comeback Player of the Year already has a proven method: believe in yourself, your teammates and the system. And don't read the local media.

"To be honest, all you local guys, I'm sorry (but) I don't listen to the local media or the paper because if things are going good, you're probably saying things that aren''t true about me because you might be saying he's better than he is," he said. "Then when things are going bad, they might now necessarily true either.

In fact, one of Kitna's first orders of business was to quell any misguided beliefs regarding his alleged lack of arm strength. Because of a pass-happy offense employed by offensive coordinator Mike Martz, one concern that has floated amongst the media has been whether or not Kitna can make the necessary throw.

"I'm not Brett Favre, I would say he's a 10 (in arm strength). I'm probably like a 7 or an 8," said Kitna, "I don't think it's below average. I think the misperception has been ever since Bill Walsh made the comment that I didn't have arm strength after my first game in this league even though he wasn't at the game. That just kind of stuck.

"It's never been an issue of 'oh, you didn't have enough arm to throw it out there.' I would put my arm with anybody. I can throw it well."

While Kitna's headstrong approach is one that his predecessor, Miami's Joey Harrington, was unable to execute, Kitna has also accomplished many other things -- most in a 24 hour period -- that Harrington never could.

Earning the respect of his teammates among them.

During the camp's opening session, Kitna was in charge, barking out instructions to players and throwing the ball crisply. According to receiver Roy Williams, Kitna already has the respect of most of his teammates, just one day after being named the starting quarterback Thursday night.

"I feel like the huddle has been responsive," said Kitna, who enjoyed similar circumstances in Cincinnati before being ousted by No. 1 overall pick Carson Palmer, "I feel like guys respect the leadership position of the quarterback. It's not something that can be taken lightly as a quarterback. You have to go out everyday and earn respect. You don't just get to come in and flop around. You have to put yourself out there everyday."

Although he fully expected to be the starting quarterback, a statement he made after signing with the team several months ago, Kitna admitted that the endorsement from the coaching staff allowed both the quarterback position and offense in general to focus on its initiatives.

"The longer you drag it out, the worse it is. You might have made the wrong decision but at least those guys know who is going to be in there," said Kitna, "They can't be guessing because then you start to get division and that's never good for a football team. I've always said: I've been through quarterback competitions and I see what that does. I think that the sooner the better."

Under Martz, Kitna has already developed a relationship with No. 1 receiver Roy Williams, and the two connected frequently on Friday and during the previous minicamps and OTA's. Kitna said Martz's intense training camp process will allow the quarterback's chemistry with Williams and Detroit's other receivers to blossom.

"The gas pedal is always down," he said, "There's one way to play the game. You don't play to protect leads; you don't play to just squeak out wins. You play to try to be perfect on offense and that's the way he does it. He just goes after things. He demands a lot. The installation schedule that we're going through is so much more in volume than anything I've ever been around. You can't go back to your room and just play video games or hang out. You've got to put the time in. He won't slow down for your, so you better get up to his speed.

"The thing that he always says is: 'the reason why we give you so many things is because that gives you the best chance to be successful.' Teams can't get a beat on you and all of that. It's just an ever-changing offense that is complex for a defense, so it's complex for us."

Kitna said that the Lions' receiving core has top-flight potential "top to bottom, no question." But does that mean the team can enjoy success like their cross-street neighbor, the Tigers?

"I guess we've got something good rolling in this town. Mike Martz says it all of the time: 'you can't put limits on yourself.' So you just go out and you try to be perfect and see where that gets you."

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